News ID: 258840
Published: 0214 GMT September 17, 2019

Merkel suggests she wants to uphold halt in arms exports to Saudi

Merkel suggests she wants to uphold halt in arms exports to Saudi
Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a joint news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Berlin, on September 17, 2019.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday suggested she wanted to stick to Germany’s halt in arms exports to Saudi Arabia, saying she did not see any reason to change the government’s stance and Berlin had tied its position to the development of the war in Yemen.

“At the moment I don’t see any prerequisites for the government to change its position,” Merkel told a news conference, Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been waging a brutal war on Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country's Riyadh-allied former state and crush the Houthis – objectives that have failed to materialize due to Yemenis’ stiff resistance.

According to a data unveiled in June by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), almost 100,000 people have been killed since 2015.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

Germany’s stance was “determined by the Yemen conflict” and a diplomatic resolution to hostilities there is urgently needed, Merkel said, Bloomberg reported.

A German government source said on Monday that Merkel’s government would extend a halt on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, pointing to the war in neighboring Yemen and the Social Democrats’ refusal to drop opposition to lifting the moratorium.

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 licenses should not be granted if there is a “clear risk” that weapons might be used in a “serious violation of international humanitarian law”. Existing licenses should be reviewed, they added.


UK apology


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

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.

The Germany’s 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 neighbors, namely France and the UK who argue that the freeze on exports undermines common defense 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 licenses from Berlin for equipment containing German parts.

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.”


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