France closes downs armaments office

Amid growing fears that Nicolas Sarkozy could block Turkey's EU negotiations, France has decided to close down its armaments office in Ankara by the end of July.

France closes downs armaments office
Amid growing fears that Nicolas Sarkozy, elected as France's next president in Sunday's election, could block Turkey's EU negotiations, which have already suffered a setback due to Cyprus, France has decided to close down its armaments office in Ankara by the end of July due to the decline in mutual arms trade.

Col. Jean Claude Geay, who was appointed to Ankara as France's armaments attaché almost three years ago, will be completing his term of duty this summer.

He said that when he leaves in late July, the Armaments Attaché's Office will also be closed down as a result of the reduced trade between the two countries.

Col. Geay, however, stated that the office may be reopened depending on future ties in the arms trade.

The French decision to close down its office of the Délégation Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), the French defense procurement agency, in Ankara did not affect the French military attaché mission in the city.

DGA is a civilian arms procurement agency that oversees the country’s arms trade with its staff having special training on arms procurement. The French decision comes after Turkey’s announcement of the suspension of military ties with France -- a reaction to the French Parliament’s approval of a bill in October of last year that made it a crime to deny that Ottoman Turks committed “genocide” against Armenians during World War I.

Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker Basbuğ said on Nov. 15 of last year that Turkish military ties with France had been suspended after French lawmakers’ approval of this so-called genocide bill.

Turkish National Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said the following day that France was not officially invited to the International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) 2007, to be held between 22 and 25 May in Ankara.

Though the Turkish announcement of the suspension of military ties between the two countries did not include arms trade, French participation in major arms procurement programs in Turkey has seen a decline, though French companies have continued bidding in the arms projects -- with little hope that they will win.

According to a September 2006 armaments report delivered to French Parliament, Turkish military imports from France stayed at around 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) between 1995 and 2005, partly due to the Armenian genocide dispute.

Though France was not officially invited to IDEF French companies such as Thales or Nexter (formerly known as Giat Industries) will open stands at the fair.

Turkey’s Meltem project, which envisions the joint production with French Thales of 19 maritime patrol and surveillance systems for Turkey’s Navy and Coast Guard Command, has been continuing while French companies bid in Turkish projects within the European Aeronautics Defense and Space Company (EADS).

The DGA operates in 15 countries where there is the potential for arms trade. Despite its closure in Ankara several French companies continue operations in the capital.

Meanwhile the court case between the two countries at the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Geneva continues.

This concerns the decision of Turkey and MBDA in 2004 to solve a dispute over a missile project at the court.

MBDA argued that Turkey has allegedly violated contract terms when it cancelled Eryx short-range anti-tank missiles, while Ankara blames MBDA for failing to meet its obligations.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense signed the Eryx contract with French firm Aérospatiale -- now part of MBDA -- worth about 2.7 billion French francs ($486.5 million) in 1988 to replace the Turkish Land Force Command’s outdated 3.5-inch rocket launcher and RPG-7s seized from Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists.

The deal aimed to allow Turkey to build a total of 19,200 missiles and 1,600 launchers under license over 10 years.

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Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2007, 17:31
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