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Politicians pressure Gabriel on Saudi weapons exports

Two top German politicians have called for a rethink on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, shortly before Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel - once a critic of the sales himself, when in opposition - visits the monarchy.

Volker Kauder of the Christian Democrats and the Green party's Claudia Roth both questioned German arms exports to Saudi Arabia over the weekend in the German press, ahead of Sigmar Gabriel's arrival for talks with the absolute monarchy's leadership.

The German vice chancellor, Social Democrat leader and economy and energy minister is starting his tour of the region in Riyadh on Saturday, arriving after

a week of revelations over the scope of German arms exports to the region

.

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Recent sales included small arms, ammo, and land-based vehicles - just the ticket for repressing domestic dissent

Conservative Kauder said that the Social Democrats should revisit "their stance on military and political cooperation" in an interview with the "Leipziger Volkszeitung". He said that the reticence of some French weapons companies to work with German ones, citing lax export standards, was a concern. The CDU whip said that he agreed with the basic principle of sending no weapons to crisis zones, but added that "these boundaries can be fluid," pointing to German military support for Kurds in Iraq as an example.

Roth: selling to 'the Middle East's top terror exporter'

Claudia Roth of the more explicitly pacifist opposition Greens told the "Welt am Sonntag" - in an interview to be printed on Sunday - that German guidelines on weapons exports make it "crystal clear that deliveries cannot be made to such countries."

Roth called the conservative monarchy "the top terror exporter in the Middle East," saying that "a large portion of the jihadist fighters in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq" hailed from Saudi Arabia. She also called on the government to lobby for the release of

DW prize-winning blogger Raif Badawi

, sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam."

Protest gegen Waffenexporte

Arms exports to Riyadh have prompted protests in Berlin in the past

"Besides the weapons deals, Germany is also discussing other trade ties with Saudi Arabia," she said. "Pressure could certainly be brought to bear using these."

A new king on the block

Gabriel's visit comes less than two months after the death of King Abdullah and the accession of King Salman. Ali Adubisi from the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights in Berlin told DW ahead of Gabriel's visit that this personnel change has altered little on the ground.

"So far there are no encouraging signals, rather even more death sentences are being carried out. And all those individuals in prison for freely expressing the opinions remain behind bars," Adubisi said.

Cooperation in the fight against the self-styled "Islamic State," and new business deals in the alternative energy sector are among the other topics likely to figure during Gabriel's two-day stopover.

msh/rc (AFP, dpa)

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