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Turkey may suspend $1.5 billion helicopter deal with Pakistan

An escalating diplomatic crisis between NATO allies Turkey and the United States may risk suspending a $1.5 billion deal between Turkey and Pakistan for the sale of 30 Turkish-made T129 ATAK helicopter gunships.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan/ANKARA, Turkey: Pakistan was supposed to receive 30 Turkish-made T129 ATAK helicopter gunships from its middle eastern ally for a staggering $1.5 billion bill, but it seems a diplomatic row between NATO allies Turkey and United States (US) may force a delay in the deal.

The T129 is being produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries under license from the Italian-British company AgustaWestland.

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“The problem is related with the U.S.-made parts for which TAI will need U.S. export licenses in order to materialize the deal,” a Turkish aerospace official said.

The T129, based on its predecessor A129 Mangusta, is a twin-engine multirole attack helicopter. The T129 is powered by two LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines. Each engine can produce 1,014 kilowatts of output power. The T800-4A is an export version of the CTS800 engine. LHTEC is a joint venture between the American firm Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce.

“Apparently we shall need U.S. export licenses to go ahead with the T129 deal,” a senior procurement official said. “This is not a technological or financial matter but is purely political at the moment.”

Washington has sanctioned two Turkish ministers, and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium exports to his country. Turkey retaliated by sanctioning two U.S. secretaries, but the row has already sparked a financial crisis in Turkey. The Turkish lira has lost 81.5 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in the year to Aug. 12.

The row significantly deepened after a Turkish court refused to release a U.S. pastor who had been in jail since 2016 on charges of terrorism and attempted to topple Turkey’s elected government. Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson was later released from jail to house arrest, but U.S. officials are demanding his immediate release and return to his homeland.

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The two NATO allies also have been at odds over U.S. support for Kurdish militants fighting the Islamic State group in northern Syria, as well as Turkey’s refusal to follow U.S. sanctions on Iran, and Ankara’s decision to deploy the Russian-made S-400 air and anti-missile defense systems on Turkish soil.

“This is a commercial deal (with Pakistan) with a country that has friendly relations with America. For Washington what matters should be the recipient of the systems, not who produces it and if relations are bumpy with the producer country,” a Turkish defense official said. “Why should the Americans punish Pakistan for their disagreements with Turkey?”

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