Ger­man arms firm: Ten­sion with Tur­key may hold up de­fense projects

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Politics -

TEN­SIONS between Ger­many and Tur­key are hold­ing up planned de­fense projects at Rhein­metall, the Ger­man arms com­pany’s CEO told the dpa news agency in an in­ter­view.

Rhein­metall CEO Ar­min Pap­perger said in an in­ter­view pub­lished yes­ter­day that sev­eral projects, in­clud­ing the pro­duc­tion of am­mu­ni­tion for fighter jets in Tur­key and up­grades to Tur­key’s Leop­ard tanks, are still await­ing de­ci­sions by the two gov­ern­ments.

Re­la­tions have been strained between Ankara and Ber­lin due to a range of is­sues. Tur­key has been crit­i­ciz­ing Ger­many for con­don­ing PKK ac­tiv­i­ties and har­bor­ing ter­ror­ists who par­took in last year’s failed coup at­tempt while Ger­many crit­i­cizes Tur­key on is­sues of press free­dom and hu­man rights. Ankara has voiced dis­may re­gard­ing what of­fi­cials say is a neg­a­tive at­ti­tude to­ward it.

The al­ready-strained re­la­tions between the two coun­tries sank even deeper dur­ing the run-up to Ger­many’s elections. Ankara re­peat­edly warned Ber­lin about us­ing anti-Tur­key rhetoric in in­ter­nal poli­cies and said re­la­tions should not be sac­ri­ficed for the pur­poses of short-term ob­jec­tives. “If re­la­tions with Tur­key do not im­prove, it will be dif­fi­cult to ob­tain clearance from Ger­many,” he said.

Poor re­la­tions have also dimmed Rhein­metall’s prospects for play­ing a role in Tur­key’s Al­tay tank project, worth an es­ti­mated 7 bil­lion eu­ros, dpa said.

The Ger­man gov­ern­ment also stepped up pres­sure on banks and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tions to cut fund­ing to Tur­key, send­ing the Turk­ish lira to a new low, Bloomberg re­ported Wed­nes­day, cit­ing peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. Last week, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel asked EU lead­ers to cut the pre-ac­ces­sion funds to Tur­key, point­ing to an “ut­terly un­sat­is­fac­tory sit­u­a­tion in re­gard to hu­man rights.”

In Au­gust, Ger­man Mag­a­zine Stern re­vealed that Rhein­metall and Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan met in 2015 in Is­tan­bul to plan the pro­duc­tion of tanks in Tur­key. Stern said Rhein­metall’s plan, first ex­posed by a jour­nal­is­tic con­sor­tium last March, fore­saw a joint ven­ture in Tur­key to pro­duce 1,000 tanks.

The in­tended prod­uct was a Turk­ish-de­signed tank, the Al­tay, equipped with Ger­man tech­nol­ogy, which could be fit­ted with a bull­dozer-like shovel, “prac­ti­cal” for deal­ing with street protests.

Tur­key’s BMC, with which Rhein­metall has a joint ven­ture in Tur­key, is among the bid­ders for the first tranche to build around 100 to 200 of a planned 1,000 com­bat tanks, dpa said.

If BMC wins the con­tract, Rhein­metall could in the­ory take part in the de­vel­op­ment of the tank via the joint ven­ture Rhein­metall BMC De­fense In­dus­try Inc. (RBSS), in which the Ger­man com­pany holds a 40 per­cent stake, but it would need an ex­port clearance from the Ger­man gov­ern­ment.

Pap­perger said Rhein­metall has no plans to build a tank fac­tory in Tur­key.

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