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A silent crisis between Berlin and Riyadh

August 30, 2018 at 3:30 am

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir speaks during a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel following their meeting in Berlin, Germany on 7 June, 2017 [Cüneyt Karadağ/Anadolu Agency]

The diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada sparked a silent crisis with Germany. This began when German and European newspapers criticised the Saudi authorities for its response.

Moreover, Germany’s exports to Saudi Arabia began to decline rapidly since the Saudi-led coalition launched the war against Yemen in 2015, and after Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Manama and Cairo imposed a blockade on Qatar in June 2017, and Berlin stood clearly against the siege of Doha. The decline reached 5 per cent in the first half of 2018, amid reports of a Saudi desire to “punish” Germany for its continuing criticism of Saudi policies and its Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, human rights violation and the decline of press freedoms in the kingdom.

Read: Bin Salman has done little for Saudi Arabia apart from a number of foreign policy blunders

Recently, the silent diplomatic crisis between Berlin and Riyadh has reached the European and US medicines industry, which set alarm bells ringing over the repercussions of Saudi restrictions on the sector, while many regional and international analysts expect relations between the two countries to break down.

A message to bin Salman

In a strongly worded letter to bin Salman, European and US medicines industry associations expressed grave concern over the strict supply conditions that Riyadh has imposed on German medicines in response to earlier criticisms of Berlin over the human rights situation in the kingdom.

As in the case of Canada, Saudi Arabia reacted harshly and, in the German case, the reaction was characterised by punitive measures without media hype. When former German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel criticised what he described as the “spirit of adventure” about Saudi Arabia’s policy in the Middle East, Riyadh recalled its ambassador to Berlin and practically froze the economic relations between the two countries.