UK lashes out at Germany over Saudi arms sales ban
Story Code : 779139
Germany announced in November that it would no longer issue arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia following the Riyadh regime’s murdering of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The ban was first seen as nothing but a symbolic move as Germany accounted for just under two percent of Saudi Arabia’s total arms imports. However, it raised concerns among British arms makers who rely heavily on German parts for their products.
German magazine Der Spiegel reported Tuesday that British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had raised the issue in a letter to his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.
“I am very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defense industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfill its NATO commitments,” Hunt wrote, according to the magazine.
Hunt said British defense firms would not be able to fulfill several contracts with Riyadh including those for the sale of advanced fighter jets and missiles that use German technologies.
The decision is expected to postpone a proposed 10-billion-pound deal by the British weapons maker BAE Systems to sell Riyadh 48 new Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets.
It would also delay shipments of Meteor air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia developed by MBDA, an arms making company jointly owned by France’s Airbus, BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo. German companies are charged with producing the missiles’ propulsion system and warheads.
Hunt further warned that the decision could cost the German military industry around 2.3 billion euros by 2026.
Airbus Defense and Space chief Dirk Hoke told Reuters that uncertainty about the issue had undermined Germany’s credibility, and could threaten future Franco-German defense projects.
“This is a serious problem,” Hoke said. “We’re facing constraints in many projects, and many problems have been put on ice.”
Hans Christoph Altzpodien, head of Germany’s defense industry association BDSV, told Reuters that the letter showed how Berlin's policies "are costing it the ability to partner with its closest European allies.”
The German ban does not include previously authorized contracts.
Last year alone, Berlin approved 400 million euros of exports to the oil-rich country, making Saudi Arabia the second-biggest purchaser of German arms after Algeria.
The UK, on the other hand, has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms exports, including missiles and fighter jets, to Riyadh since the deadly war on Yemen began in 2015.
London has so far rejected international calls for a ban on the weapons sales despite the growing humanitarian disaster in Yemen.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May and other British officials are planning to expand military deals with Saudi Arabia and other repressive Arab regimes as a source of income after leaving the European Union.
Overall, European countries have approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE worth more than $86.7 billion since 2015, when the two allies launched an all-out war against Yemen, according to the online news outlet Middle East Eye.
Their contribution in aid to the impoverished nation amounts to just two percent of their revenues from the arms sales, the website reported in November.