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RISE Project: Rebels in Syria are being armed by the US with the support of Romania and Bulgaria

An international investigation involving RISE Project journalists shows that Romania and Bulgaria have played a “key role” in the arming of the rebel groups in Syria.

“The Syrian rebel factions, backed by the United States, both of them fighting against the Islamist State (ISIS) and Bashar al-Assad, received weapons and ammunition sent out of Constanta Port (photo). They stopped in Jordan and Turkey, on paper, but a BIRN and OCCRP investigation, which also contributed by RISE Project reporters, shows that the final destination was the Syrian War Theatre,” RISE Project, quoted by ziare.com, informs.

Thus, reporters have been able to reconstitute, on the basis of documents, the official reports and discussions with people from within, a complex network through which the Pentagon supplies Syria with weapons, while hiding their final destination.

Experts consulted by the quoted source say this “places eastern European governments selling arms and ammunition at the risk of violating international laws.”

“Operations are part of the largest Soviet-style arms procurement programme in the history of the Pentagon, with about USD 2.2 billion invested until 2022 to arm the Syrian rebels fighting against ISIS,” RISE Project writes.

According to balkaninsight.com, since 2014, Mihail Kogalniceanu in Constanta, Romania, is, alongside German bases, one of the main cargo and passenger hubs for the US Army Central Command, which covers Syria, and is a major delivery point for Soviet-style weapons destined for rebels, according to a Pentagon contractor involved in the supply-line.

This is supported by leaked SOCOM transport paperwork and Romania’s yearly register of arms transfers, which shows how weapons from Serbia and Bulgaria have been trucked to the base in 2016 and 2017.

But as the flow of weapons has increased, the US army base has struggled to keep up, according to the Pentagon contractor, who asked to remain anonymous.

“The corridors of MK [Mihail Kogalniceanu] are piled high with SOCOM deliveries which are due to be exported,” he said. “They are filling up the office building because the warehouse is packed full.”

Romanian arms export reports for 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 confirm that authorities in Bucharest have approved five licenses for Eastern Bloc weapons and ammunition to transit from Bulgaria and Serbia to the airport. The final destination on the licenses is declared to be the “United States”, a technique used by SOCOM to facilitate the transfer of weapons to Syria. The Pentagon declined to comment, the same source informs.

According to RISE Project, the Romanian and German government have stated they were not aware of the part played in delivering weapons to Syria, whereas the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) has claimed no license for weapons export having as destination Syria has been issued, the last exports to this country being dated in the ‘90s.

“Romania strictly observes the highest control standards for military products exports,” MAE says, according to RISE Project.

 

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