Turkey confirms cancellation of $3.4 billion missile defence project awarded to China

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his daughter Sumeyye Erdogan (2nd L), poses with his supporters as he leaves from Eyup Sultan mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, November 2, 2015. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has cancelled a $3.4-billion tender provisionally awarded to China to develop a long-range missile defence system, the defence ministry said on Tuesday, a project that had stirred the concern of Ankara’s NATO allies.

Turkey, which had chosen China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp as the preferred candidate, has decided to focus instead on developing a defence system with domestic resources, the ministry said in a statement.

An official from Turkey’s Defence Industry Undersecretariat, which ran the technical negotiations with China, said in July a major stumbling block had been China’s reluctance to make a technology transfer that could give Turkey the knowledge to operate the system and eventually replicate it.

An official at the Turkish prime minister’s office had told Reuters on Sunday the tender had been withdrawn.

“The (defence industry) committee decided to cancel the existing project and focus on work to develop our long-range air and missile defence system with domestic resources,” the ministry said in the statement on its website.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he noted the report.

“The relevant issue will be handled by the two sides’ relevant departments and companies through consultations,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Turkey had given mixed messages on whether it was planning to integrate the Chinese-made system with NATO infrastructure, and U.S. and European allies had wanted Turkey to use a system compatible with NATO’s air defence.

During the tender, U.S. firm Raytheon put in an offer with its Patriot missile defence system. Franco-Italian group Eurosam, owned by the multinational European missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales, came second in the tender.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Heinrich