Israel, Serbia plan military, security ties

Special to World
Friday, August 1, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel and the former Yugoslavia have agreed to launch defense and military cooperation.

Israel and the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro have signed a memorandum of cooperation that would pave the way for joint training, intelligence exchange and weapons sales.

The memorandum was signed on Thursday during the visit by Serbian Defense Minister Boris Tadic to Israel. It was the first visit by a Yugoslav defense minister to the Jewish state.

"We have a lot of room for cooperation in our defense industry," Tadic said. My idea is to bring Israeli technology to our country, to have joint ventures and to find markets through our relations [with third countries]."

Israel and Yugoslavia were said to have cooperated in defense and military issues in the 1990s. But formal ties were avoided amid the United Nations embargo on Belgrade in connection to the military campaigns in Bosnia and later in Kosovo.

During his visit, Tadic toured a range of Israeli defense facilities.

They included Israel Aircraft Industries, where he saw a demonstration of advanced unmanned air vehicles. The minister also toured Elbit Systems and Tadiran Communications.

Tadiran Communications has already sold tactical radio systems to the former Yugoslav Army. Tadic said his ministry is negotiating with Tadiran to revise the current order to include an unspecified radio that fulfills current military requirements.

The Serbian minister, who entered the post in April, said the requirements for military modernization include communications, aircraft upgrades and information technology. He said Belgrade plans to upgrade its Soviet-origin Mi-8 helicopter fleet and perhaps some MiG-21 or MiG-29 fighter-jets.

Tadic said his ministry is considering Israel for these and other projects. He cited interest in the procurement of an Israeli UAV.

"It is a very important thing for us," Tadic said. "It will be a way to increase our cooperation in the aircraft industry. UAVs are what we need and maybe we can buy from Israeli companies."

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