Friday, 24 November 2017

Investigative journalists: USA delivered Czech arms to Syria

ČTK |
14 September 2017

Prague, Sept 13 (CTK) - The USA delivered some old arms from Central and Eastern Europe, including Czech ones, to Syria, although they guaranteed to the European countries that the U.S. military will be their final user, the Czech Investigative Journalism Centre (CCIZ) said on Wednesday.

The Czech Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism. The USA used the arms within military and security programmes, which the ministry supported because they were aimed at enhancing international security, including the fight against terrorists.

A part of the weapons were bought in the Czech Republic, the CCIZ, which cooperated with the Centre for Research into Corruption and Organised Crime (OCCRP), said, referring to publicly accessible documents.

This means that the U.S. Department of Defense violated the conditions of the sale of arms, CCIZ said.

This ensued from the publicly accessible documents that the U.S. Department of Defense had bought obsolete AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers, mortars and other Soviet-era military equipment for 500 million dollars in Central Europe.

The Department of Defense then sent the weapons to Syria to train and equip the rebels fighting Islamic State and President Bashar al-Assad, while it told its suppliers that Americans would be their users.

The journalists examined seven tenders put up by the Department of Defense. They related to the purchase of arms from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia for 71 million dollars.

"For each arms exporting deal, the exporter needs to present a series of documents to obtain the export licence," the CCIZ said.

It is approved by the foreign and industry and trade ministries. The certificate of final user is one of the necessary documents. It is to guarantee that the weapons will not end in the hands of undesirable users such as terrorists.

The Pentagon submitted false information in the document as it claimed that the U.S. military, not Syrian rebels would be the final user, the CCIZ said.

The Czech Foreign Ministry told CTK that the Czech Republic has been cooperating with the USA in the anti-terrorism fight in the long term, for example, through deliveries of ammunition to Iraq, training of local police officers and humanitarian aid. Apart from this, the ministry said it provides military material to the U.S. armed forces who are the declared final users.

Irena Valentova, from the ministry's press section, said the Czech controlling bodies always respect all the rules for arms trading, including the need to document the certificate on the handing of the delivery to the final user.

The Czech Republic "is fully aware that these arms may be used in military and security programmes and operations that the United States coordinates abroad," Valentova said.

Though the recipients of the U.S. security and military aid are not known in advance in a number of cases, the Foreign Ministry is continuously informed about the general aims that the USA wants to achieve within these programmes and it must be definitely declared that the Czech Republic fully and deliberately supports these aims, she said.

"There is the question of whether the Foreign Ministry has fallen prey to Americans' untrue information or whether it knew from the beginning where the weapons would really be sent," the CCIZ said.

Last year, the CCIZ helped uncover that in the past four years, Eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic, tacitly approved the sale of arms for over one billion euros to the Middle East countries which are known to send them on to Syria.

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