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Germany to extend ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia

September 17, 2019 at 1:41 pm

German Chancellor Angela Merkel answers in Berlin, Germany on 21 March 2019 [Abdülhamid Hoşbaş/Anadolu Agency]

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government will extend a controversial ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the end of the month, a government source said yesterday.

The ban was implemented following the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year and applies to all countries involved in the Yemen war. The move has faced criticism from German arms manufacturers and some EU neighbours, namely France and the UK who argue that the freeze on exports undermines common defence projects.

However, according to the Times, Germany and France have signed “a secret deal in an attempt to ease Franco-German friction over arms exports” which enables the sale of French weapons containing German components to countries with questionable human rights records. French arms manufacturers have been affected by Germany’s arms exports ban, as sales to Saudi Arabia have either been lost or delayed due to the need to obtain export licences from Berlin for equipment containing German parts.

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Additionally, a lawmaker in Merkel’s own Christian Democrats party told German newspapers that “a lifting of the export ban on defensive weapons systems is in our strategic interest”.

In March, the German government came under fire for approving arms deals worth almost €400 million ($441 million) to Saudi Arabia and its allies involved in the Yemen war despite the ban.

Earlier this year a UK court ruled that arms exports to Saudi Arabia are unlawful. Under UK export policy, the judges said, military equipment licences should not be granted if there is a “clear risk” that weapons might be used in a “serious violation of international humanitarian law”. Existing licences should be reviewed, they added.

Yesterday the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss issued an apology after the government “inadvertently” broke its own pledge not to licence export of arms to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the conflict in Yemen.

The breach was first identified earlier this month, she explained, “during a routine analysis by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).” It concerns the export of air cooler’s for a Renault Sherpa Light Scout, a high mobility vehicle used by the military to cross difficult terrains, and the second breach involves the export of 260 items of various radio spares.