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  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured with French President Emmanuel Macron) added six months to Saudi arms export ban upsetting France and Britain.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured with French President Emmanuel Macron) added six months to Saudi arms export ban upsetting France and Britain. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 30 March 2019

Over 20 non-government groups ask Chancellor Merkel to maintain the freeze, citing the arms might risk international human rights.

The Germany government announced the extension of an existing ban on arms export to Saudi Arabia Thursday to further fuel recent tumultuous relations with fellow European countries.

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"The order to halt authorized weapons exports to Saudi Arabia is extended by six months from March 31 to Sep. 30, 2019," government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said, in a statement, regarding the additional six-month embargo placed on the Arab nation which leads a coalition in the never-ending Yemen war.

This week, over 20 non-government groups, operating in Yemen, wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to maintain the freeze, citing the arms would be used to "facilitate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights."

Minor coalition member, Social Democrats (SPD), along with human rights supporters have argued for the ban to stay in place.

"We oppose defense exports to dictatorships and into active conflict zones," SPD Deputy Leader Ralf Stegner said.

However, other European nations, which have joint projects with Germany, have expressed concerned about the arms ban that now places a US$13-billion military order of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets in limbo. Joint Eurofighter components have been left out of the ban.

German allies, notably France and Britain, have previously urged Berlin to lift the original export ban, which was imposed following last year’s brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey. 

“Credible export opportunities based on clear and predictable rules are an indispensable prerequisite for the continuation of our European defence industry, as argued for in the Aachen Treaty,” France’s ambassador to Germany, Anne-Marie Descôte, remarked. While British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt accused Berlin of a “lack of loyalty.”

The arms export ban is also currently delaying shipments of Meteor air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia by MBDA because the missiles’ propulsion system and warheads are built in Germany.

A report released this month by the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) revealed that Germany increased its international arms sales by 13 percent, in 2018; and doubled arms sales to the Middle East from 2014-2018 compared with 2009-2013.

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