negotiates chopper deal with Russian-Israeli firm
By METEHAN DEMIR
July 29, 2002
ANKARA In a surprise move, Turkey has decided to launch talks with
the Russian-Israeli IAI consortium to explore the possibility of
co- production of Kamov Ka-50/2 helicopters. The decision came after
two years of negotiations with the US firm Bell-Textron deadlocked
over what Turkey considers the exorbitant price of $4 billion for
145 third generation attack helicopters.
The decision made a major impact in international defense circles.
Turkish officials held at least three secret talks with a delegation
of three Israelis and four Russians since July 8.
Bell-Textron officials, whose company produces King Cobra helicopters,
told The Jerusalem Post they recently became aware of the talks
between the Russian-Israeli partnership and Turkish officials.
"We know there were talks on July 8 and 22. But we have not
been informed by the Turkish officials yet. That's why we are still
continuing negotiations with Turkey at the technical level,"
Meanwhile, Turkish officials appeared to confirm the contacts.
"Yes, we asked the Kamov-Israeli consortium for its updated
prices after we faced serious difficulties in setting an optimum
price with the American firm," a key Turkish defense industry
official said. He added that if an agreement is reached with the
Russian-Israeli firm, Bell could be easily dropped from the agenda.
The price is expected to reach around $2.25 billion for the first
50 helicopters. Since Turkey announced two years ago that Bell had
priority, Turkey retained the option of the IAI consortium's Kamov's
Ka-50/2 if talks with Bell failed.
Until Turkey"s surprise move, there was widespread belief
that the Russian-Israeli partnership had lost almost all of its
hopes for the Turkish tender. There were also rumors that the Kamov
option was being used by Turkey to pressure Washington.
On July 21, 2000, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Turkey would
start negotiations with Bell-Textron, but this did not mean that
the US company had won the tender.
Nevertheless, Turkey said that this decision concerns only the
first 50 of the 145 attack helicopters.
Sources said the US has protested to Turkey at every opportunity.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz raised the issue during
his visit to Ankara last week, and John Murphy, CEO of Bell-Textron,
rushed to Turkish capital recently.