SPD calls for extension of German ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia

By Michael Fischer, dpa

Germany’s ban on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia should be extended until at least the end of the year due to the continuing conflict in Yemen, a high-ranking member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said on Monday.

“Without a fundamental shift by Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war – one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world – there cannot and must not be any arms exports,” Gabriela Heinrich, the deputy chair of the SPD’s parliamentary group, told dpa.

“From the point of view of the SPD parliamentary group, the moratorium must thus be extended at least until the end of the year,” she added.

The SPD is part of Germany’s ruling coalition, together with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Heinrich’s comments came despite a call by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister for the ban to be lifted.

“We hope Germany understands that we need these resources to defend ourselves,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told dpa, pointing to attacks last year on Saudi oil facilities that he blamed on Iran.

The fact that the German government nevertheless continues to block arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia does not fit “the good relations that we have with Germany,” the minister said.

The export ban was introduced in November 2018 after Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Turkey. Top officials in Saudi Arabia are suspected of being behind the murder.

An export limit on weapons to countries “directly” involved in the war in Yemen had already been agreed by the German coalition government in 2018, although it contained many loopholes to allow for some arms dealings.

Saudi Arabia is leading an alliance of Arab nations fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are supported by Iran. The war has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

The export ban has already been extended twice and is currently active until March 31, 2020.

Prince Faisal praised the high quality of German weapons, but also noted that there are other places from which armaments can be acquired.

“We will buy what we need wherever we can get it,” he said.

Heinrich called for arms exports to third countries outside the European Union and the NATO military alliance to be reduced in general.

“Weapons are not normal economic goods,” she said. “We finally need a paradigm shift, a reorientation of the German arms export policy to further limit exports to third countries.”

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