US backtracks on arms deal with Turkey, denies transfer of warships
by Mehmet Solmaz
ISTANBULJan 06, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Mehmet Solmaz
Jan 06, 2015 12:00 am
The U.S. has shelved the handover of two leftover frigates to Turkey as Congress excluded Turkey from a bill seeking permission to transfer vessels to foreign countries citing Turkey's sour relations with Israel and the latest gas row with Greek Cyprus. The move is interpreted by foreign policy experts as an action that will lead Turkey to think twice before getting into new arms purchases.
Signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama, the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2013 authorizes the transfer of the frigates Curts and McClusky to Mexico on a grant basis. The act also authorizes the sale of the frigates Taylor, Gary, Carr and Elrod to Taiwan, Defense News reported.
In the 2012 version of the Naval Transfer Act, Turkey was to receive two Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates, the USS Halyburton and the USS Thach, which are being decommissioned by the U.S. navy. However, some members of Congress objected to the transfer of naval frigates to Turkey, mainly citing the county's strained relations with Israel and Greek Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
The decision from Congress came after Turkey made various trade agreements with Russia and started looking for alterative sellers when purchasing heavy military products. Turkey is negotiating a tender for a long-range air defense missile system with the U.S. and France after eliminating China from its possible suppliers.
The offer to transfer the vessels was not a result of a Turkish demand, but the U.S. denying the planned transfer could make Turkey look for alternatives in its planned expansion of military craft.
"I believe we should hold off on sending powerful warships to Turkey and encourage the government in Ankara to take a less belligerent approach to their neighbors," Congressman Eliot Engel reportedly said during the debate, an approach that Ankara strongly opposes. On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed some Western powers for what he called their defamation campaign against Turkey and said: "We are not a country that you can point a finger at and scold."
Members of Congress particularly emphasized Turkey's tension with Greek Cyprus over energy sources off the divided island and its alleged pressure against natural gas exploration by U.S. companies in the region.
"Turkey has recently threatened legitimate Cypriot and Israeli efforts to cooperation on energy exploration," another congressman, Brad Sherman, was quoted as saying.
Turkey is one of around a dozen countries that can manufacture its own warships thanks to its national warship program, the National Ship Project (MİLGEM). Two corvettes, Heybeliada and Büyükada, designed and built by local manufacturers, were completed in 2008 and 2011. The completed ships have been handed to the Turkish Navy.