BELGRADE (Reuters) - Western Balkans countries led by Serbia exported over 500 million euros (442.6 million pounds) worth of weapons, ammunition and equipment in 2016, with Saudi Arabia the single largest buyer, a U.N.-appointed watchdog said in a report.
Weapons producers and governments in the region, which comprises Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania, are boosting arms production and exports of surplus stocks to improve their struggling economies.
All but Albania are former parts of old federal Yugoslavia, which was a major global arms exporter, especially to developing countries.
The report by the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) said that the region's annual revenues from arms sales rose by 12 percent to 514.6 million euros in 2016.
That is the latest year for which figures are available.
Serbia tops the 2016 regional export list with sales worth 406.6 million euros, followed by Bosnia with 104.3 million euros. In 2016, Albania sold 1.28 million euros worth of arms.
Montenegro and Macedonia sold 1.13 million euros and 1.21 million euros respectively, according to the report, citing statistics from individual governments.
Earlier this year Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin said Belgrade aimed to export weapons and military equipment worth around 600 million euros this year, up from 570 million euros in 2017.
Weapons sales from the Western Balkans to Saudi Arabia in 2016 amounted to 118 million euros, making it the single biggest buyer. The remainder was sold to countries ranging from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq and Turkey to the United States.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)