Turkey France Sign Secret Deal for Missiles

From Jane’s Defense Weekly

*The deal will allow Turkey to build the Eryx under license over a 10 year period.

A French Ministry of Defense official said that a memorandum of understanding(MoU) on the co-production of Eryx was signed last July but was kept under wraps because of the delicate state of French-Turkish relations following the French National Assembly’s adoption in May of a draft bill recognizing Turkish responsibility for the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Outraged over the accusation–Turkey canceled the planned signing of the MoU on Eryx at the Paris Air Show in June. It also threatened to deny France any part in Turkish armamen’s contracts if the French Senate endorsed the draft bill on Armenia adopted unanimously by the National Assembly–France’s lower house (JDW 17 June 1998).

Turkey let it be understood that–in addition to Eryx–the Eurocopter Tiger combat helicopter could be eliminated from a $4 billion contest to supply Turkey with 150 attack helicopter and that Giat’s bid to sell the Leclerc tank to Turkey would suffer as well.

The revelation that Turkey had signed the MoU on Eryx despite its public stance came after the French government indicated last week that the French Senate would not examine the National Assembly’s bill on Armenia. Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said the government–which fixes the agenda for both houses of parliament–had ruled against putting the bill up for a reading in the Senate. Since the bill cannot be enacted without Senate approval–the decision effectively killed it.

Vedrine conceded that France’s move had been shaped by Turkey’s fury over the National Assembly’s vote. He told the Senate’s foreign affairs committee that he also personally feared "any adoption of the draft law would serve chiefly those (in Turkey) who are tempted by authoritarian nationalism and the repudiation of progress and open-mindedness."

Turkey’s threat concerning Tiger now appears to have also been hollow. Last month–Ankara included the Tiger on the list of five helicopters pre-qualified for the attack helicopter contract (JDW 3 Mar). In truth–it never was disqualified–according to Eurocopter.

"Talks with the Turkish authorities on Tiger didn’t break off after the Armenia affair," Eurocopter spokesman Jean-Louis Espes told JDW last week. "At most–contacts with them have been less frequent over the past year."

Turkey and France secretly signed a $450 million deal involving the supply of 10,000 Aerospatiale Eryx 600m-range anti-tank missiles to the Turkish armed forces in the middle of last year–despite public claims by Ankara that it had frozen all arms talks with Paris because of anger over a vote in the French parliament–Jane’s Defense Weekly has learned.

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