The French President Emmanuel Macron called “pure demagoguery” the Germany-led decision to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia until the murder case of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is clarified.
“That’s pure demagoguery to say ‘we must stop arms sales’. It’s got nothing to do with Mr Khashoggi,” Macron said in a news conference in Slovakia.
And he might be right. European countries have repeatedly refused to stop selling arms to King Salman’s regime despite registered war crimes and human rights abuses in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
“What’s the link between arms sales and Mr Khashoggi’s murder? I understand the connection with what’s happening in Yemen, but there is no link with Mister Khashoggi,” Macron told the press.
Macron explained that the EU shouldn't rush into conclusions before a complete investigation takes place, and then act accordingly to the results, taking collective measures against the specific responsible people.
He didn’t clarify if France was going to stop selling arms to the Saudis because of the situation of Yemen instead.
Angela Merkel had recently announced Germany would stop approving weapons exports to Saudi Arabia until Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was solved.
She also said Friday that the kingdom should do everything to solve the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as there are millions of Yemenis suffering from hunger due the effects of the military intervention.
Merkel’s announcement was followed by that of Karin Kneissl, the Austrian Foreign Minister, who suggested the European Union as a whole should suspend the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and added the measure could also help end “the terrible war in Yemen.”
Relations between Germany and the Saudi kingdom have been tense due to different geopolitical events in the past few months. Both countries restored they respective ambassadors in September after a ten-month stand off due Berlin’s accusations of Saudi interference in Lebanon's internal politics. The former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned after a visit to Riyadh but rescinded it shortly after.
But that didn’t stop them from concluding some serious arms deals. Shortly after the ‘normalization’ of diplomatic ties, the Economy Minister Peter Altmaier approved US$480 million worth of arms export to Saudi Arabia for the year, despite a January decision banning arms sales to those included in the Yemen war.
They also approved the export of 48 warheads and 91 homing heads to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), another member of the coalition.