Norway announced the suspension of new licenses for weapons exports to Saudi Arabia Friday, following Germany’s lead, as European countries are increasing their pressure on the kingdom over the murder of journalist Kamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Yemen.
"We have decided that in the present situation we will not give new licenses for the export of defense material or multipurpose goods for military use to Saudi Arabia," said Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide in a statement.
The diplomat didn’t specify if Khashoggi’s murder had triggered the decision, but she cited “a broad assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the unclear situation in Yemen" as the reasons when speaking to the Norwegian NTB news agency.
Soereide recently summoned the Saudi ambassador to Oslo to express her concerns on the murder, suggesting this is partly a reason for the decision.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of forces against Houthi fighters in Yemen, in a conflict that has driven much of Yemen's population to the brink of famine and has killed over 50,000 people.
The NTB news agency said arms exports to Saudi Arabia in 2017 were worth US$4.9 billion, when in 2016 the sum was barely US$2,750.
Norway had already suspended arms sales to the United Arab Emirates, a member of the Saudi-led coalition, in December due to “severe concerns for the humanitarian situation in Yemen.” They denied selling weapons to the Saudis at that time.
Other European countries have acted in the same fashion. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in October Germany would suspend future arms sales to the Saudi government over the killing of the journalist.
The Swiss government first suspended weapons sales Saudi Arabia in 2009, except for spare parts, ammunition for air-defense systems and private use firearms. Now, the spokesman of the economic affairs department, Fabian Maienfisch, announced that already authorized exports of spare parts would be temporarily suspended “in the wake of the Khashoggi case,” but that the measure could be reversed.
Others don’t think that ending arms sales to the Saudi kingdom is the best decision.
The French President Emmanuel Macron called the German-led decision to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s case “pure demagoguery”.
“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 Mr. Khashoggi,” Macron told the press.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “horrendous” crime that should be dealt with, but urged the international community to go easy on the Saudi government because the real problem is Iran.
"It’s “very important for the stability of the region and the world that Saudi Arabia remain stable," said Netanyahu.
The Saudi kingdom has been changing its narrative over the Khashoggi case, first declaring the journalist had exited the consulate in Istanbul by his own means, then admitting he died in the building; and then saying that the murder had been premeditated. Leaked surveillance footage even shows a Saudi agent wearing Khashoggi’s clothes exiting the consulate, suggesting that there was a plan to create fake evidence to support the Saudi’s first story. Facing strong international pressure, Riyadh has arrested 18 men accused of murdering the dissident journalist, but has protected the crown prince and higher levels of the government.