BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government extended by six months an embargo on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, instituted last October in response to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The ban has faced opposition from within the German government and the European Union, but has the support of rights groups.
“The order to halt authorised weapons exports to Saudi Arabia is extended by six months from March 31 to September 30, 2019,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
Berlin reacted to Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October by declaring a freeze on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other countries involved in the Yemen war.
It has since faced protests by EU partners because the ban has impacted joint defence projects such as the Eurofighter and Tornado jets.
While France and Britain have urged Germany to end the export halt, human rights groups argue it should stay in place – a view that has many backers among the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners to Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc in the coalition government.
“We oppose defence exports to dictatorships and into active conflict zones,” SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner said on public TV.
Merkel’s bloc favoured resumed sales, at least for joint European defence projects.
“Another unilateral German stop to defence exports, imposed without coordination with European and Nato partners, would be wrong and dangerous,” its economic policy expert Joachim Pfeiffer told the Passauer Neue Presse daily.