ZAGREB, December 28, 2018 – The US Congress has okayed Israel’s sale of F-16 fighter jets to Croatia, whereby the whole procedure has been returned to the State Department for consideration, Večernji List daily said on its website on Thursday. The paper says that members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs did not state, within the legal deadline of 15 days, any objections to the F-16 sale to Croatia, whereby Congress formally approved the proposed transfer of US weapons to a third country.
The paper says this is an important step in the sale but that it does not mean the transfer has been approved. Under the law, Congress approved the sale of the original jets, as they were when the US delivered them to Israel, without the Israeli modifications, and their value was 135 million dollars.
Earlier this month, the US Axios portal said the US was blocking Israel’s sale of 12 US-made F-16 Barak jets to Croatia that were about 30 years ago, which Israel upgraded and which would cost Croatia 2.9 billion kuna over a ten-year period.
The US transfers US-made military equipment to partners via the Foreign Military Sales programme, as part of which the buyer commits to requesting Washington’s permission in writing before changing the end use, modification or further sale, as regulated via the Third Party Transfer process.
Israel upgraded the old US aircraft with advanced Israeli-made systems in order to persuade the Croatians to buy the jets, Channel 10 has said, adding that the Americans have accused Israel of unfair conduct and making money at America’s expense and that, according to Washington, Israel cannot sell to third parties without US approval.
Senior Croatian officials have emphasised several times that they will insist on all the terms of the agreement on the purchase of F-16s with Israel being honoured or a new tender for the purchase of new aircraft will be issued.
US ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst said earlier this month that Israel needed to accept the technical requirements so that the US could approve the sale of the 12 fighter jets, adding that this was about who owned the technology and intellectual property rights. “The Israelis need to accept the technical requirements and as soon as that’s done we can move forward and the sale can go through,” Kohorst said then.
According to Kohorst, “the United States has consistently said what the technical requirements are for more than two years and everyone should have known that these are the technical requirements and so it’s a bit of a surprise to me that there is this slowdown right now.”
He also explained that “the debate is who will pay for the conversion because the USA and its contractors Lockheed Martin have to do the work because they’re the ones who own the technology and intellectual property.”
Kohorst said he is sure Israel made its offer in good faith, adding that Croatia, the United States and Israel are “great allies” and will resolve this problem.
More news on the relations between the United States and Croatia can be found in our Politics section.