Israel apologizes to Croatia for failure of F-16 deal

Croatian defense minister says his country's plans to buy used F-16 fighter jets from Israel failed over a lack of US approval for the sale.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

F-16 fighter jet
F-16 fighter jet
Flash 90

Croatia's plans to buy used F-16 fighter jets from Israel failed over a lack of US approval for the sale, the Croatian defense minister said Thursday after talks with an Israeli delegation.

Croatia in March agreed to buy 12 used F-16s from Israel to replace its Russian-made MiG-21s.

The United States, however, objected to the sale of the US-made jets because it wants the removal of electronic system upgrades that Israel added, in a rare defense dispute between the close allies, according to Croatian officials.

"Israel has officially informed the defense ministry that ... it unfortunately cannot get an adequate approval of the US to deliver F-16 planes," Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic told reporters on Thursday.

He added that the agreement between Israel and Croatia is not signed and Zagreb will suffer no financial damages.

The deal, worth $500 million (435 million euros), would have been the Balkan nation's biggest arms purchase since splitting from former Yugoslavia in the 1990s war.

Senior Israeli defense ministry official Udi Adam, who led his country's delegation, said that "unfortunately ... we could not ... implement the project due to circumstances beyond our control."

"Croatia could not influence this outcome and cannot be responsible," he said in a statement issued by the defense ministry.

Last week, Croatia asked Israel to clarify by Friday whether it could gain US approval for the F-16 sale.

A week earlier, a senior Israeli official told Axios that now-former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis had rejected a personal request from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to give the acquisition his approval.

Apart from Israel, several other countries also put in bids for the tender, including Greece, South Korea, Sweden and the United States.

Krsticevic said that Croatia still had the "political will to maintain capability of its air force."

"I'm convinced that this government will find a way to realize that," he added.

AFP contributed to this report.