The New York Times is reporting Croatia was selling arms to Syrian forces who are fighting against the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
The newspaper said on its website that Saudi Arabia financed “a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria”.
The reports cite “American and Western officials familiar with the purchases”.
The article further asserts that the weapons’ distribution “has been principally to armed groups viewed as nationalist and secular, and appears to have been intended to bypass the jihadist groups whose roles in the war have alarmed Western and regional powers.”
According to the New York Times, “Washington’s role in the shipments, if any, is not clear”, while officials in Europe and the United States, including those at the Central Intelligence Agency, cited the sensitivity of the shipments and declined to comment publicly”.
But the daily said that officials said multiple planeloads of weapons left Croatia since December, “when many Yugoslav weapons, previously unseen in the Syrian civil war, began to appear in videos posted by rebels on YouTube”.
A U.S. official was quoted as saying that the possibility of transfers from Croatia could have been raised last summer – “when a senior Croatian official visited Washington and suggested to American officials that Croatia had many weapons available should anyone be interested in moving them to Syria’s rebels”, but that at the time, Washington was not interested as weapons were being supplied to the rebels from elsewhere.
The newspaper said that Croatia’s Foreign Ministry and arms-export agency denied that such shipments had occurred, while Saudi officials declined requests for interviews about the shipments for two weeks.
By shipping arms to Syrian rebels, Croatia would violate its own decision to join the EU sanctions against Syria, which ban the sale of weapons to any side in the conflict in the Middle Eastern country.