Ecuador calls off arms exchange with US over plan to send weapons to Ukraine

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 12:07 PM

QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuador’s government has canceled a plan to trade outdated Soviet weapons for new arms from the United States, President Daniel Noboa said, after learning the old weapons would have been sent to Ukraine.

Noboa, who is grappling with sharply deteriorated security and has declared 22 criminal gangs to be terrorist groups, said in January that Washington would give his country $200 million of new weaponry in exchange for “junk” arms.

“To our surprise, the United States has communicated publicly that it will take (the arms) for the armed conflict in Ukraine, in which we do not want to take part, nor do we want to triangulate weapons for it,” Noboa told CNN in an interview clip shared on Thursday. “We can’t go ahead with it.”

The spokeswoman for the foreign ministry of Russia, which invaded Ukraine two years ago, criticized the arms exchange earlier this month.

“Russia is our third-largest commercial partner, and in this particular case they were right, we would have been triangulating arms and we won’t do that,” Noboa said, giving no further details.

The full interview is set to air on CNN on Sunday.

A spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Quito said they had no information on the policy change.

Several high-ranking U.S. officials have visited Ecuador in recent weeks to discuss cooperation on security issues.

Russia last week lifted a ban on banana imports from five Ecuadorean businesses. It had said there were sanitary issues with the shipments.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Bill Berkrot)