* Turkey sees no need to consult allies on domestic defence
* Initial selection based on price, ability to co-produce
* Turkey could still back away from deal
* U.S. says it expressed serious concerns to Turkey
By Jonathon Burch
ANKARA, Sept 30 Turkey said on Monday it could
still reconsider its decision to co-produce a long-range air and
missile defence system with a Chinese firm currently under U.S.
sanctions, but said it felt no obligation to heed other
Turkey's Defence Ministry announced last week it had chosen
the FD-2000 missile defence system from China Precision
Machinery Import and Export Corp, or CPMIEC, over rival systems
from Russian, U.S. and European firms. Turkey is a member of the
NATO transatlantic military alliance.
"We do not consider anything other than Turkey's interests,"
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters.
"It is not possible for another country to say, 'I have a
problem with them, I had put them on a black list, a red list,
how could you give them a tender?'" said Arinc, who also serves
as the government's spokesman.
CPMIEC is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran,
North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act, and the United
States has expressed "serious concerns" over Turkey's decision.
NATO sources said collaboration with China on the system could
raise questions of compatibility of weaponry and of
Arinc did not single out the United States in his criticism,
saying comments from U.S. officials about the decision had been
"respectful", but reiterated that Turkey did not need to consult
on matters of domestic defence.
"We are a member of NATO and we have had good relations from
the beginning with NATO countries, especially the United States.
However, when it comes to the subject of defending Turkey ... we
have the power to take a decision without looking to anyone
else," he said.
Arinc said that while the deal had not yet been completed,
the initial selection had been based on the Chinese offer being
the most economical and because some of the production would be
carried out in conjunction with Turkey.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said
the United States has made clear its concerns to Turkey at a
"We have conveyed our serious concerns about the Turkish
government's contract discussions with the U.S.-sanctioned
company for a missile defence system that will not be
inter-operable with NATO systems or collective defence
capabilities," Psaki told a daily briefing for reporters. "Our
discussions will continue."
Psaki said the United States had taken note of comments by
Turkey that the deal was not yet final. If a deal was finalised
"then we will talk about that at that point," Psaki added.
DEAL NOT FINALISED
President Abdullah Gul was quoted by the English-language
Hurriyet Daily News as saying: "The purchase is not definite.
... There is a short list and China is at the top of it. We
should look at the conditions, but there is no doubt that Turkey
is primarily in NATO."
Some Western defence analysts have said they were surprised
by Turkey's decision, having expected the contract to go to
Raytheon Co, a U.S. company that builds the Patriot
missile, or the Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands each sent two
Patriot batteries and up to 400 soldiers to operate them to
southeastern Turkey early this year after Ankara asked NATO for
help with air defences against possible missile attacks from
Turkey has long been the closest U.S. ally in the Middle
Eastern region, bordering during the Cold War on the Soviet
Union. The U.S. military exercised great influence over a
Turkish military that strongly influenced domestic politics.
Under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, elected in 2002, the
role of the Turkish military in politics has been curbed.
Political and military relations between Ankara and Washington,
while still close, play a less central role, and this could be
reflected in procurement policy.
A source familiar with the competition said Turkey could
still back away from its decision, describing Thursday's
announcement as a "selection", not an actual contract award.
The next step was for Turkey to actually negotiate the terms
of the deal with the Chinese provider, which could present
opportunities to back away from the deal, said the source,
adding that U.S. government and industry officials had not
received any advance notice about Turkey's intentions.
Raytheon and other losing bidders hope to receive a briefing
on the decision, but those meetings have not yet been scheduled.
Industry executives hope to schedule those meetings this week.
Industry experts also said the decision appeared to have
been based on cost, but they did not expect Raytheon to offer
significant price concessions to secure the deal, given its big
backlog of orders from other countries for the Patriot system
and other missile defence equipment.
Asked about Turkey's decision, a NATO official said it was
up to each nation to decide what military capabilities they
acquire but that it was also the alliance's understanding the
Turkish decision was not final.
"However, it is important for NATO that the capabilities
allies acquire are able to operate together," the official said.