Friday

16th Nov 2018

Lone Merkel declares Saudi arms ban

  • Merkel: "Arms exports can't take place in the situation we're currently in" (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

Germany has announced a unilateral arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, but France, the UK, and the US have not followed suit, posing questions for Western unity in the Middle East.

"I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms exports can't take place in the situation we're currently in," German chancellor Angela Merkel told press in Berlin on Sunday (21 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Trump boasted would get $110bn in contracts (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

"We condemn this act in the strongest terms ... there is an urgent need to clarify what happened," she said, referring to the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote for US newspaper The Washington Post.

Germany sold about €530m of mostly aircraft equipment to Saudi Arabia last year, according to its annual EU declaration.

Germany, France, and the UK made a show of unity in a joint statement.

"We will ultimately make our judgement [on sanctions] based on the credibility of the further explanation we receive about what happened and our confidence that such a shameful event cannot and will not ever be repeated," they said.

Relations with Saudi Arabia depended on its "respect" for "the norms and values" of "international law", they said.

Merkel's economy minister Peter Altmeier urged other EU states to follow Germany.

"It would be important that we come to a joint European stance," he told the ARD broadcaster.

"It will not have any positive consequences if we halt arms exports but other countries at the same time fill the gap," he said.

But neither France, which sold €13.6bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia last year, or the UK, which sold about €1bn, immediately followed Germany.

"I note that the Saudi authorities have ... admitted the facts and accepted some responsibility, so we're making progress," French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said.

"The strength of our response will depend on ... our confidence that it cannot happen ever again," the British foreign office said.

Crime scene

Merkel's decision came after Saudi Arabia admitted to killing Khashoggi in what it called a "rogue operation".

It did it in its consulate in Istanbul in what the EU foreign service called "a shocking violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations", a treaty that governs international diplomacy.

The EU currently has arms bans on China, Russia, Iran, Syria, and Yemen.

It has also blacklisted Belarus, Burma, several African states, North Korea, and Venezuela, but not Saudi Arabia.

An EU "code of conduct" on arms sales says member states ought to deny export licences if their weapons were to "prolong armed conflicts" or if clients violated "international humanitarian law".

Saudi Arabia has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes in a civil war in Yemen, tortured and raped people, and used child soldiers, according to a UN report in August.

The Saudi kingdom also has the death penalty for homosexuality, among other human rights outrages.

Arms sales

But neither the EU's non-binding code or Saudi Arabia's track record stopped France from selling it €3bn of small arms, €3.7bn of bombs, €2.6bn of warships, and €1.3bn of military technology last year.

The UK sold it €600m of aircraft equipment and €156m of ammunition.

Belgium (€832m), Italy (€425m), Bulgaria (€279m), and Spain (€116) also sold notable quantities.

"We have a common position on arms exports that regulates many things in this sense, but final responsibility is with the member states, and hence this is a question that is in their hands", an EU foreign service spokeswoman said on Monday.

For his part, US president Donald Trump recently boasted he would get $110bn (€96bn) in Saudi arms contracts, creating 40,000 jobs in America.

The arms sales are part of an old Western strategy to back Saudi Arabia and its allies in order to contain Iranian power in the Middle East.

The EU and US also used to buy Saudi oil but not Iranian oil exports.

Old order

The old order recently changed when EU states lifted their oil embargo on Iran in a nuclear arms control deal.

But US president Donald Trump stuck by Saudi Arabia and boycotted the accord.

He threatened sanctions against German and other EU firms in Iran, clashing with Merkel.

He said on Sunday he would speak to Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman "very soon" before deciding what to do.

"We'll have an answer by probably Tuesday or so," Trump said.

It remains to be seen what next steps France, the UK, and the US take as Turkish investigators reveal more details.

But if they let Saudi Arabia off the hook, it would leave Trump, once again, up against Merkel, amid already strained transatlantic ties.

Raif Badawi: Saudi blogger wins Sakharov Prize

Saudi blogger Badawi, sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes for a website which criticises Islamic clerics, has won the EU Parliament's 2015 prize for freedom of thought.

EU firms in Iran caught between US and Europe

European companies with business in Iran appear caught in a tug of war between the European Union and Washington. The US demands they leave Iran or face sanctions. The European Union says remain in Iran or face penalties a home.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us