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Germany extends ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia

German ban on arms exports to Saudi has impacted the Eurofighter project [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 29 March, 2019

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Germany has extended a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia introduced in October 2018 despite protests from its EU neighbours.
Germany has extended a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia by six months until the end of September, when a decision was made late last year to freeze sales of military equipment of countries involved in the Yemen conflict.

Late Thursday, there was a decision to make an exception for arms that are manufactured with other countries - such as the Eurofighter and Tornado jets, when a ban triggered anger from EU partners - France and the UK.

Berlin said it would push for jointly produced weapons not to be used in the war in Yemen and for no "fully assembled" products to be delivered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE through the end of this year.

Germany imposed the ban following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last year.

The Yemen war entered its fourth year on Sunday. Described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations, the war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi and UAE backed government has left millions on the brink of famine.

About 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Yemen war since March 2015, though rights groups say the death toll is much higher.

British and American-made bombs may have killed or injured more than 1,000 Yemeni civilians, including women and children, a new report released on Wednesday said.

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Germany has a troubled relationship with foreign arms sales, a legacy of its dark past. Polls show that around two thirds of German citizens reject weapons exports.

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Merkel's government has faced political pressure at home over weapons sales, which include Leopard tanks used by Turkey to fight Kurdish militias.

But it has also faced increasing protests from European partners including France and the UK over the issue. The two countries say the ban prevents them selling jointly developed equipment with German components to Saudi Arabia.

French President Emmanuel Macron last year dismissed Germany's call for other countries to join an export freeze to Saudi Arabia, saying it was "pure demagoguery to call for a halt".

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last month voiced "deep concern" that Berlin's stance damaged Europe's defence industry and its "ability to meet its NATO commitments", in a letter to Maas reported on by Spiegel Online.

Germany is among the world's top arms exporters, a group led by the US that also includes Russia, China, France and the UK.

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