Germany’s SPD to extend freeze on arms sales to Riyadh 0

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which is part of the ruling coalition, says it has plans to extend an embargo on arms supplies to Saudi Arabia despite pressure from major European countries not to do so.

Rolf Muetzenich, the deputy leader of SPD in Germany’s parliament, said the party would fight to maintain the halt in shipments of already approved weapons deals with the regime in Riyadh that Berlin had imposed in November over the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We will push to continue the halt in arms exports to Saudi Arabia beyond the March 9 deadline, since the reasons for the imposition of the moratorium have not changed,” Muetzenich wrote in an essay published in the SPD newspaper Vorwaerts on Monday.

Muetzenich also stressed the need for a joint European policy in the field of arms exports to Saudi Arabia that would fall within the framework of a common European foreign policy.

“However, this cannot be a copy of the lax export practice of the French, British or even Italians,” he said.

The SPD believes that it is necessary in the future to introduce European regulation of arms exports and to create a parliamentary body that will monitor its observance, according to the lawmaker.

The embargo on the arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which expires on March 9, was announced by Berlin following the gruesome murder of Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul in October last year. The SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives agreed in November to reject licenses for future arms exports to Riyadh and set a temporary moratorium on deliveries of previously approved deals.

Merkel also called Khashoggi’s murder an “atrocity” that “had to be clarified,” calling on fellow European governments to follow suit and suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

German news magazine Der Spiegel said in a recent report that UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had sent a letter to his German counterpart Heiko Maas and called for lifting the ban on the export of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The German foreign minister said last week that the resumption of arms supplies to the kingdom by Germany was tied to the resolution of the conflict in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has been mired in the war on Yemen since 2015. The deadly campaign has put 14 million Yemenis on the brink of imminent famine. 

Saudi Arabia also maintains a crippling blockade which has left all cities in Yemen unable to find food and clean water.

According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi war has claimed the lives of about 56,000 Yemenis so far.