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Controversial military exports

February 22, 2013

German weapons exports to Arabian Gulf countries more than doubled in 2012 compared to a year earlier, according to a major German newspaper. Opposition parties have criticized German exports to the tense region.

Photo: Ingo Wagner dpa/lni/lno +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The value of weapons exports to countries in the Gulf region rose to 1,42 billion euros ($1.88 billion) last year, according to a report published in Friday's edition of the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

In 2011, Germany exported just 570 million euros worth of military hardware to the six nations that belong to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.

Military exports to Saudi Arabia are politically controversial in Germany, due to Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

German military exports are subject to approval by a special committee of the Bundestag parliament, the Federal Security Council. It comprises Chancellor Angela Merkel and eight cabinet ministers, and meets behind closed doors.

According to Friday's report, in which the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) cited the German Economy Ministry, by far the biggest increase in German security hardware exports was to Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 1.24 billion euros in 2012.

This was by far the highest value of weapons exports from Germany and around nine times the value sold to Saudi Arabia one year earlier.

Of this, Saudi Arabia spent around 1.1 billion euros on hardware meant for use in securing its borders, according to the newspaper report.

Sales to Bahrain and Qatar also increased, while, at the same time, sales to the United Arab Emirates and Oman  decreased.

Formal query from Left

The paper said the information was released following a formal query from the parliamentary group of the opposition Left party.

This follows another report earlier this month that the Federal Security Council had approved the sale of patrol boats to Saudi Arabia.

The Bild am Sonntag Sunday paper reported on February 10 that the Saudi government was set to spend 1.5 billion euros on the patrol boats, manufactured by the Bremen-based Lürsen shipyard.

At the time, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said council decisions were initially made in secret to protect business confidentiality and were only made public later.

Earlier this month, opposition Greens parliamentary leader Jürgen Trittin said such exports were not in Germany's interests.

"It is simply not true that Saudi Arabia plays a clear role against terror," he told German ARD public television on February 11.

In Friday's newspaper report, Jan van Aken, a German parliamentarian from the Left party also criticized the government over its apparent approval of military hardware to Saudi Arabia and other states in the region.

“The Gulf states continue to build up arms and the German government has no inhibitions about arming them to the teeth,” Aken told the paper. He added that the increase in sales demonstrated that  “the worst human rights violations were apparently no longer a reason to deny approval of exports.”

There was no immediate comment from the German government on the latest report.

pfd/ipj (dpa, AFP)

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