US-Turk venture on F-16 repairs a snub to France

ANKARA (AP) – Turkey’s military-owned electronic defense company is buying the controlling shares of a rival, US-Turkish joint venture, a sign that the new partnership will be awarded a 200-million-dollar contract to upgrade Turkish F-16 warplanes, a report said Thursday. The military electronic defense company ASELSAN is acquiring 72 percent of the US-Turkish Microwave Electronic Industry Corp., or MIKES, in a ceremony on February 15. The merger signals that French company Dassault, which had originally been awarded a 200-million-dollar contract to upgrade electronic warfare systems on 80 Turkish F-16s, is likely to be sidestepped, Milliyet newspaper reported. French Defense Minister Alain Richard visited Turkey earlier this month to lobby on behalf of French defense companies and repair relations damaged by the French Parliament’s decision to recognize the killings of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire as genocide. ASELSAN had originally formed a partnership with Dassault to build and install the warfare systems. But the contract was suspended last year after Turkey imposed an unofficial ban on French defense companies in retaliation for the French genocide bill. The company’s original plans, which included opening a gold processing plant at Olympias, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Thessaloniki, have been plagued by permit delays and local opposition since 1995, when TVX bought the former state-run Cassandra mine complex. The company says it has already invested more than $250 million in the Olympias project.

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