Deputy Defence Minister Visnja Tafra has denied that Croatia was withdrawing peacekeepers from Syria because of the New York Times’ allegations that it had sold arms to anti-government rebels.Deputy Defence Minister Tafra said that Croatia was withdrawing its 100 or so peacekeeping troops from the Golan Heights on the Israel-Syria border because of incidents there, not because of claims made in the US newspaper – that it had sold arms to Syrian rebel forces in a US-backed operation.
Tafra told the Croatian parliament that troops had been withdrawn from the UN peacekeeping mission specifically because of three incidents, the Zagreb-based daily Jutarnji List said.
“In February, nine serious incidents happened in the Austrian battalion’s area of responsibility, two incidents in the Philippine battalion’s area of responsibility and three incidents in the Croatian troops’ area of responsibility,” Tafra stated.
Parliament approved the withdrawal of the peacekeeping troops from the Golan Heights on March. Ante Kotromanovic, the Defence Minister, said the withdrawal would start “very soon” but refused to specify the date for security reasons.
Tafra said that other UN peacekeepers had been abducted since the decision had been made to withdraw the troops, confirming the wisdom of the decision.
Earlier, there were reports that media allegations that Croatia had been supplying Syrian rebels with arms had compromised the safety of peacekeepers.