The German government has admitted that until 2009, German companies were allowed to supply special valves and pumps to Syria that could be used to construct plants that produce chemical weapons. The Government was responding to questions by the opposition Left Party in the German Parliament, or Bundestag.
The German news agency published the Ministry of Economy’s report stating that: “during all these cases Syria demonstrated the goods would be used for peaceful purposes… These components are [also] used in the production of paper and food products.”
An American study from 2000 that was republished last month reveals that Syria had access to industrial parts from Germany that may have been used in toxic gas production. The German Fest Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper quoted the study by the American Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which stated that the pieces were barrels of special mixtures with particular high temperature ovens and pressure-balance devices. According to the newspaper, the pieces were legally exported to Syria under Hermes cover, which is an export credit guarantee. CSIS concluded at the time that the German companies conducting the procurement processes in the 1990s were not violating German law.
The German Ministry of Economy estimated last month that the amount of chemicals supplied to Syria in the period between 1998 until April 2011 was around 360 tons, however it stressed that there was no doubt that these materials were used for civilian purposes.
And while the Ministry admitted that other materials exported to Syria could have been used in the production of chemical weapons, it insisted they were not. These exports include valves with special coating, heat exchanger plates and diaphragm pumps. The Ministry explained that these materials were only allowed to be exported on the condition that the Syrian government uses them in the production of paper mills, beer manufacturing and to construct a station to process natural gas. There are no signs that the materials were used for military purposes.
In Germany, the export of dual-use goods, those used for both military and civilian purposes, is subject to the approval of the Federal Bureau of export control.
Under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (1998-2005) these exports fell, but they resumed their pace during Angela Merkel’s first government from 2005 until 2009, as well as during her second term from 2009 to 2013.