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Report: Germany OKs arms sales to Saudi Arabia

September 29, 2022

The decision defies a 2018 ban over Saudi Arabia's involvement in the Yemen war. Deals were reportedly approved before Chancellor Olaf Scholz's visit to the region last weekend.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on SaturdayImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's coalition government has approved new arms export deals to Saudi Arabia, media reported on Thursday. 

The reports emerged after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.

Berlin had imposed a ban on weapons exports to Riyadh over its involvement in the war in Yemen, as well as accusations of murdering the dissident US-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Scholz seeks energy partnerships with Gulf states

New export licenses

Robert Habeck, Germany's economy minister and vice chancellor, confirmed in a letter to the Bundestag that several deals on arms exports had been approved by Scholz before his trip to the region, Der Spiegel and the dpa news agency reported.  

The export licenses are part of a joint program with Italy, Spain and Britain, according to the letter. 

Riyadh will be able to purchase equipment and ammunition for Eurofighter and Tornado jets worth €36 million ($35.2 million), according to Der Spiegel.

The European cooperation project will also supply spare parts for the Airbus A330 MRTT worth €2.8 million, dpa reported. 

Banned in 2018

German weapons sales to Saudi Arabia peaked at €1.24 billion in 2012.

But in 2018, Germany's ruling bloc of the conservative CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to ban arms exports to countries involved in the Yemen war

The agreement had several exceptions that allowed some exports of German military materials to the Gulf state.

A complete ban came into effect a year later, after Khashoggi's murder. The ban was extended twice since then. 

What changed?

The ban was in line with Germany's stance of not exporting weapons to active conflict zones.

That stance has shifted this year as Germany came under pressure to provide Ukraine with weapons during Russia's invasion. 

Riyadh has led an alliance in Yemen that is fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels alongside the government since 2014, creating what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

But hopes that the conflict could soon come to an end have risen as a UN-brokered cease-fire took effect in April and has since been renewed twice.

Berlin is also looking to improve its ties with energy exporters as it cuts its reliance on Russian gas during the war in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia is one of the world's most important energy exporters

Germany is one of the world's top arms producers and exporters, with sales increasing 21% from 2016 to 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its largest customers were South Korea, Algeria and Egypt. 

fb/jcg (dpa, cited newspaper)