Merkel repeats refusal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia
French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, have edged towards easing bilateral tension over arms exports, principally to Saudi Arabia.
The deal is designed to stop Germany from blocking France from selling weapons containing German parts to states with questionable human rights records.
But Merkel has said she sees no reason for Germany to end its embargo on arms shipments to the tyrannical desert kingdom.
“At the moment I don’t see any conditions for the government to change its position,” Merkel said during a press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Berlin. Germany’s stance was “determined by the Yemen conflict” and a diplomatic resolution to the bloodshed was urgently needed, she added.
Germany’s ban on Saudi arms sales, including on projects involving major employers like Airbus, has triggered complaints from the UK and France.
Germany’s human rights policy is blamed by the French for undermining attempts to move towards a shared European defence. The neighbours are trying to relaunch their alliance but France, as the world’s third-biggest arms exporter with 6.8 per cent of the global market. France is behind the US on 36 per cent and Russia with 21 per cent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported. Britain comes in sixth place with 4.2 per cent of the trade.
France says its defence exports, which raised €9.1 billion in exports in 2018, could be threatened by Germany’s barriers to selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, France’s second-biggest customer after India and ahead of Qatar.
Germany banned weapons exports to Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Washington Post journalist, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
French manufacturers say they need to obtain export licences from the German authorities for equipment containing parts made in Germany.
The VAB Mk 3 armoured vehicles and Sherpa Light tactical vehicles made by the French firm Arquus are equipped with German gearboxes and other parts.
Emmanuel Levacher, Arquus’s chairman, said the German authorities had delayed export licences to Saudi Arabia for parts as small as a “washer”. He said Berlin had also delayed authorisation to export equipment to India, Egypt and Indonesia.
“I don’t believe in the efficiency of this agreement because everything will be blocked by the Bundestag,” an industry source told Le Monde. “The Germans cause us problems for everything, absolutely everything, even for anodyne parts like rubber washers.”
“The Germans are perfectly hypocritical,” said another. “[Berlin] continues to sell in the Gulf and get around the restrictions through joint ventures based in South Africa or elsewhere.”
French armaments are exported all around the world. Picture credit: Wikimedia