MUNICH Turkey's Foreign Minister said on Sunday Ankara had not yet decided which missile defense system it would buy and it was open to bids from other companies besides the current Chinese favorite if these guaranteed joint production.
NATO member Turkey's decision last September to choose a $3.4 billion offer from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC) irked Ankara's Western allies as the Chinese company is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.
U.S. and NATO officials also voiced concerns that a Chinese product would not be compatible with other NATO systems.
"Turkey did not decide yet which system should be bought.. for us three criteria are important - joint production, the time of delivery and price," Ahmet Davutoglu told a panel at the Munich Security Conference.
The deal would mark a breakthrough for China in its bid to become a supplier of advanced weapons. But Davutoglu said Turkey was still negotiating and he had held a meeting with a U.S. company a day earlier.
"The Chinese company was the first because they offered us joint production. Joint production was important for us," he said.
Rival offers from Franco-Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and U.S.-listed Raytheon Co RTN.N, the maker of Patriot missiles, were also in the running he said.
"If the other two companies give us the assurance of joint production in Turkey and the transfer of technology, of course we wish to have this with NATO allies."
NATO's top military commander urged Turkey last November to buy a missile defense system that is compatible with other NATO systems.
"Everyone knows how difficult it is if you want to buy something from the United States, there is a long process of getting permission. If those companies are offering us joint production it is negotiable," Davutoglu added.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson and Adrian Croft; Editing by Rosalind Russell)