Croatia threatened to cancel its purchase of F-16 fighter jets from Israel on Thursday, January 2 after months of stalling due to a lack of U.S. approval.
Croatia had in March agreed to buy 12 used F-16s from Israel to replace its Russian-made MiG-21s.
The deal, worth $500 million (€440 million), was the Balkan nation’s biggest arms purchase since splitting from former Yugoslavia in the 1990s war.
But Washington objected to the sale of the U.S.-made jets because it wants the removal of electronic system upgrades that Israel added.
After months of delay, the Croatian defense ministry said it asked Israel for “official information by January 11 on whether Israel can deliver the planes.”
If Croatia is not able to buy the specific jets it chose, the government will cancel the deal, the ministry said.
“We are not happy that this happened,” said Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday.
“The government firmly stands by its decision … to realize only the offer as accepted” in March, he said.
Apart from Israel, several other countries also put in bids for the tender, including Greece, South Korea, Sweden and the United States.
Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union four years later.
Last month, Slovakia’s defense minister Peter Gajdos signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin Vice President Ana Wugofski after the government approved the €1.6 billion purchase. The Ministry of Defence had announced the deal for 14 F-16 block 70/72 aircraft on November 30, only to be rebutted by Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, who said in a statement that three procurement documents were invalid because they had not been approved by the finance ministry.
With reporting from AFP