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Turkey negotiates chopper deal with Russian-Israeli firm

Jerusalem Post
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," one said.

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.