ANKARA Nov 8 Turkey has asked bidders in a
missile defence system tender to extend the validity of their
bids, Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Friday, keeping its
options open despite provisionally awarding the deal to China.
The NATO member's decision to choose the $3.4 billion offer
from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp
(CPMIEC) raised concerns among Turkey's Western allies as the
Chinese company is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the
Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.
"When these bids are submitted, everyone says their bids are
valid until a particular date in terms of price and the date of
delivery," Yilmaz told state broadcaster TRT.
"If there is deadlock with the first bidder, we will turn to
the second bidder. So we said, extend the validity of your bids,
this is what we have asked."
Turkey announced in September it had chosen China's FD-2000
missile defence system over rival offers from Franco/Italian
Eurosam SAMP/T and U.S.-listed Raytheon Co. It said
China offered the most competitive terms and would allow
co-production in Turkey.
U.S. and NATO officials have raised concerns with Turkish
officials about the decision to buy the system from CPMIEC, a
company hit by U.S. sanctions for sales of items to either Iran,
Syria or North Korea that are banned under U.S. laws to curb the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Sources familiar with the discussions said it could affect
Turkey's plans to buy radar-evading F-35 fighter jets built by
Lockheed, a program whose development Turkey helped to fund and
which it hopes results in component orders for Turkish firms.
The sources told Reuters in late October that Ankara had
asked the United States to extend the pricing on Raytheon's
Patriot proposal, submitted together with PAC-3 missile maker
Lockheed Martin Corp.
Raytheon Chief Executive William Swanson told analysts in
October that his company stood ready to work with Turkey if it
changed its mind about the Chinese system. Spokeswoman Pam
Erickson declined to comment further on Friday.
Lockheed welcomed news that Turkey was open to further
talks. "We welcome the opportunity to continue discussions with
the Turkish government for their critical missile defense
needs," spokesman Gordon Johndroe told Reuters in an email.
Turkey's Yilmaz said his country would welcome new bids from
the three parties, should they wish to improve their offers:
"How would this all affect us? It would ease our hand in
negotiations with China," he said.