Angela Merkel Puts on Hold Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Oct 21, 2018)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that Germany would put arms exports to the kingdom on hold for the time being, given the unexplained circumstances of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death.

The chancellor said Riyadh had not put the full facts of Khashoggi's demise "on the table."

"First, we condemn this act in the strongest terms," she told a news conference after speaking to members of her Christian Democrat (CDU) party.

"Second, there is an urgent need to clarify what happened — we are far from this having been cleared up and those responsible held to account.

"Thirdly, I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms exports can't take place in the current circumstances," she said.

Pressure from within

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats — the junior partner of Merkel's conservatives in the ruling grand coalition — had already called for weapons exports to the kingdom to be halted.

A clause already exists in the coalition agreement signed by Germany's governing parties, saying that no weapons exports may be approved to any country "directly" involved in the war in Yemen, such as Saudi Arabia. However, the agreement does exempt countries that had made weapons deals with Germany before the current government took power.

Bombs for the world

Merkel said Germany would discuss further "reactions" to the case with its international partners.

On Saturday, the chancellor said the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi's death was insufficient— and that those responsible for the killing "must be held accountable."

Germany is the fourth largest exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia after the United States, Britain and France.

Body not located

Merkel's comments came after Saudi Arabia's foreign minister described the killing of Khashoggi as part of a "rogue operation," adding that the circumstances of his death — and the whereabouts of the body — were unknown.

The Saudis have said Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed in a "fistfight" at its consulate in Istanbul, having previously insisted that he had left the building. Khashoggi had been at the diplomatic office to seek paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Turkish officials say he was murdered — and his body dismembered — and that they have audio and video evidence.

Trump not keen on arms embargo

Last month, Germany approved €416 million ($480 million) worth of military exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018. In the past, such exports have mostly consisted of patrol boats.

Amid calls across the world for arms embargoes against Saudi Arabia, US President Donald Trump has said his country would be "punishing itself" if it halted weapons sales to the country.

"There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we'll do them," Trump said on Saturday, without elaborating.

The US president has repeatedly said he does not want to stop a proposed $110 billion arms sale to the Saudis because too many US jobs depend on it.


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