The German Defense Ministry is considering the sale of used Leopard II tanks to Turkey, using the logic that the controversial NATO partner has made progress with its human rights problems. The Marxist SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) is pushing for the sale, along with support from the Green party. Both leftist political groups are arguing that the restrictive export policy toward Turkey was now pointless, considering the country's approach to the EU and its progress in human rights policy. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Greens) has said that Turkey has a better-than-50 percent chance to join the EU, which would be considered a turning point.
In April 1996, Turkey announced a 10-year, $31-billion armed forces modernization program, which included plans to buy new helicopters and armored vehicles (as well as to build five frigates). While this grand scheme has fallen behind schedule, the Turks are tenacious. In addition to keeping a lid on the Syrians, Turkey probably views Iran and oil-rich Azerbaijan as reasons enough to pursue their modernization program (particularly when they can acquire modern systems in a dirt cheap buyer's market). - Adam Geibel
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