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German tanks to Indonesia

May 8, 2013

An opposition politician has told DW that the German government has approved the sale of 164 tanks to Indonesia. The country joins Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on a contentious new export list.

BERGEN, GERMANY - MAY 02: A German army Leopard 2-A6 heavy tank participates a maneuver May 2, 2006 in Bergen, Germany. (Photo: Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images

Green party parliamentarian Katja Keul told Deutsche Welle and other news outlets on Wednesday that the contentious tank deal was going ahead. Keul had submitted a formal request for clarification to Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

Under the deal, German military manufacturer Rheinmetall was given government approval to sell 164 tanks to Indonesia. The deal comprises 104 Leopard 2 tanks, 50 of the older Marder 1A2 infantry fighting vehicles, four tanks specialized for mountain terrain, three mobile bridge-layers and three armored earth-movers, called "pioneer tanks" in Germany. The price is not known.

Indonesia had officially requested the deal during Angela Merkel's visit in the summer of 2012, with Reuters previously reporting that it was likely to be approved.

German military exports must be cleared by a special security council made up of Merkel and most top government ministers, including the defense, foreign, finance and development ministers.

Indonesia had also sought to procure Leopard tanks, considered among the most modern on the market, from the Netherlands, but the deal was stopped in the country's parliament. Indonesia's questionable human rights record helped explain the Dutch decision.

The opposition Green and Left parties had voiced concerns that the weapons might be used against ethnic minorities in the country.

The US has recently announced plans to export military equipment to the Asian country, a part of heavy investment since 2010 in modernizing its military.

Contentious customers

Indonesia is number 100 on Transparency International's corruption index and sits in 139th place on Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index. The country resumed capital punishment in March this year after four years without the death penalty.

Germany has approved a number of similar deals in recent months, with Spiegel consistently reporting on the issue. One December issue of the weekly magazine featured a doctored image of Merkel in a military uniform with the cover headline "German weapons for the world." Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the two most notable examples for armored vehicle exports in recent months, with the United Arab Emirates a comparatively recent trading partner for automatic weapons and ammunition.

This February, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported that German arms exports just to the Gulf region more than doubled in 2012 compared to the previous year, rising from a total of 570 million euros ($746 million) to 1.42 billion euros.

Traditionally, Germany's weapons export policies have been comparatively cautious, especially for land-based equipment. Hans-Dieter Genscher, foreign minister for almost two decades, once famously said that "whatever floats is ok, whatever rolls is not," referring to the difficulty of using naval weaponry to suppress internal conflicts compared to tanks and other land-based military equipment.

msh/jm  (AFP, dpa, Reuters)