Croatia says it's up to Israel to solve rift with U.S. on blocked F-16 deal
The Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovič confirmed the U.S. was blocking a $500 million F-16 fighter jet deal between Israel and Croatia, as I reported yesterday, and said Israel was responsible for sorting out the matter with the U.S.
Why it matters: Croatian Ministry of Defense officials told the Croatian press they feel they got stuck between Israel and the U.S. The Croatians are very concerned because they already allocated money in the budget for the purchase, and the deadline for the first phase of the deal is fast approaching. The Croatian government was criticized domestically for the deal, with some in the opposition saying it agreed to pay too much for used fighter jets.
Catch up quick: Under the deal, 12 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets refurbished and upgraded by Israel would be sold to Croatia. The U.S. was also fighting for the Croatian tender, and U.S. officials claimed Israel was being dishonest and trying to profit off the back of the U.S., according to the Israeli officials.
Plenkovič said in a statement: "For us, the important thing is that the burden of responsibility for ensuring the U.S. consent lays on the Israeli side. We are not in a particularly burdensome situation, everything that has been done on our part was correct. I do not believe that there is a possibility that the deal will not be approved eventually."
The US Embassy in Zagreb also issued a statement after the story broke and didn't deny the U.S. had reservations about the deal.
"We have been working with Israel for more than a year on the details of the proposed transfer of F-16 aircraft. Throughout these conversations, we have clearly highlighted under what technical conditions we can approve such a transfer. At this moment we are very active with Israel and Croatia in order to achieve an acceptable solution that will be within Croatian needs and within the deadline."