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Bulgarian arms exports rose due to Middle East conflicts

September 1, 2017 at 2:30 am

A rebel fighter arranges weapons in Aleppo, Syria on September 26 2016 [REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi]

Bulgaria’s light weapons exports rose 60% in 2016 compared to 2015. It reached its highest levels – comparable to during the communist era – due to the plethora of conflicts in the Middle East, according to official figures released on Thursday.

The exports of light weapons, ammunition and missiles amounted to more than one billion Euros, surpassing the average of 670 million euros, which was recorded during the era when the country exported weapons to pro-Soviet regimes or movements in the Middle East and Africa.

Half of these exports went to Iraq and Saudi Arabia and were worth 259 million and 239 million Euros, respectively, followed by the United States (98 million), Afghanistan (55 million), Croatia, Azerbaijan, India, Egypt and Russia, according to the annual report of the Ministerial Committee on Export Control.

Experts estimate that most of the weapons requested by Saudi Arabia and the United States have been used to supply armed groups supported by these two countries, especially in Syria and Yemen.

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Bulgaria produces “inexpensive Russian weapon models that are easy to use,” although they are not considered modern, Bulgarian expert Teomir Bezlov said.

The United States has acknowledged that US companies have bought ammunition from Bulgaria to train the Syrian opposition factions.

A study about the munitions used by Daesh, conducted by the British Institute of Analytical Research Conflict Armament Research in 2014, revealed that a quarter of these munitions are being manufactured in Bulgaria.