Israel Nixes Multi-million Dollar Defense Contract With Turkey Amid Continued Tensions

Sale of aerial surveillance equipment manufactured by Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems canceled out of fear it would fall into enemy hands, namely Iran.

A defense contract with Turkey worth an estimated $140 million was canceled at the last minute, out of fears that information regarding the aerial surveillance systems to be sold would fall into enemy hands, it was reported on Thursday.

The Defense Ministry announced over the past few days that it intended to stop the sale of the equipment manufactured by Israeli electronic defense firm Elbit Systems to Turkey.

A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet - AP

An agreement over the sale of the equipment was signed three years ago, and the deal is worth an estimated $140 million.

"At the present time, there is not an estimate of the amount of the damages that may result from the non-renewal of the export authorizations. Such damages may have a material impact on the company's financial results," Elbit said in a statement in response to the cancelation of the contract.

Elbit said it was discussing possible compensation with the Defense Ministry.

The decision to cancel the sale was made out of security concerns regarding Turkey’s ties with enemy states of Israel, particularly Iran.

Export of any military equipment or defense technology is subject to Defense Ministry approval. The Defense Ministry highlighted that, “We do not allow such advanced technology to fall into other hands, in this way the system can fall into enemy hands.”

As recently as September, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan was quoted as saying that Iran and Turkey were “firm in their stand” against a common enemy – Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. It has been reported since then that Turkish and Iranian cooperation in this matter would be in terms of intelligence or diplomacy.

Asked about the cancelation of the sale, a security official said, “Ties with Turkey are extremely important to the state, but we have a security responsibility over any product that is granted approval for export.”

The Defense Ministry stated in response that it "does not give details of all the considerations and information that form the basis of policy decisions in security exports. The Defense Ministry carries out regular assessments of the situation with all the relevant bodies, and decisions are made on a professional basis and according to defense and state considerations.”

Ties between once-close allies Israel and Turkey have deteriorated in recent years, reaching crisis point last year over Israel's killing of nine Turks aboard a ship trying to breach its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a leaked speech last year that Ankara's newly appointed intelligence chief was a "friend of Iran" who might betray Israel's secrets.

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