The navy has excluded US companies from bidding for six frigates valued at a total of $2,000 million. This follows the failure of the US to deliver three promised frigates, local press reports say.

The three frigates surplus to the US inventory were promised by US President Clinton on 31 March during a visit to Washington by President Demirel. Turkey has already paid for two of the frigates, and has leased the third.

However, pressure from Greece prevented the release of the frigates on schedule, the press reports say. Turkey and Greece came to the brink of war in February over the disputed Kardak rocks in the Aegean.

Turkish officials claim costs of more than $40 million were incurred in sending about 600 Turkish sailors to Norfolk, Virginia, in the US, to prepare the vessels for departure. After waiting fruitlessly for several weeks, most of the sailors have been withdrawn.

Relations generally with the US have reached a low. The US Congress voted on 5 June to withhold $25 million in aid from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) because Turkey had blocked assistance to Armenia through its territory and airspace. Congress also voted to reduce the ESF by a further $3 million unless Turkey apologised for the alleged Armenian genocide’ of 19181923.