Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and secretly transported then to antigovernment fighters in Syria, reports the New York Times.
The popular American daily reiterated reports that were published by Croatian daily Jutarnji list about the deal last week, saying that the arms were part of an undeclared surplus in Croatia remaining from the 1990s Balkan wars. One Western official said the shipments included “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns” and an unknown quantity of ammunition.
Jutarnji list reported on Saturday that in recent months there had been an unusually high number of sightings of Jordanian cargo planes at Pleso Airport in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital.
The newspaper said the United States, Croatia’s main political and military ally, was possibly the intermediary, and mentioned four sightings at Pleso Airport of Ilyushin 76 aircraft owned by Jordan International Air Cargo. It said such aircraft had been seen on Dec. 14 and 23, Jan. 6 and Feb. 18. Ivica Nekic, director of the agency in charge of arms exports in Croatia, dismissed the Croatian report as speculation.
Danijela Barisic, a spokeswoman for Croatia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that since the Arab Spring began, Croatia had not sold any weapons to either Saudi Arabia or the Syrian rebels. “We did not supply arms,” she said by telephone.
Igor Tabak, a Croatian military analyst, said that after a period when many countries in the former Yugoslavia sold weapons from the Balkan wars on black markets, Croatia, poised this year to join the European Union, now strictly adheres to international rules on arms transfers.