Angela Merkel puts on hold arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany will stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, at least for the time being. The decision comes in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that Germany would put arms exports to the kingdom on hold for the time being, given the unexplained circumstances of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death

The chancellor said Riyadh had not put the full facts of Khashoggi's demise "on the table."

"First, we condemn this act in the strongest terms," she told a press conference after speaking to members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

"Second, there is an urgent need to clarify what happened — we are far from this having been cleared up and those responsible held to account,"  she said. "Thirdly, I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms exports cannot take place in the current circumstances."

Later, at a campaign event ahead of next Sunday's elections in the state of Hesse, Merkel called Khashoggi's death an "atrocity" that "had to be clarified," while reiterating that German arms exports to Saudi Arabia would be suspended until the matter was adequately explained.

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00:26 mins.
DW News | 21.10.2018

Maas questions Saudi account of Khashoggi's death

Pressure from within

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, of the Social Democrats — junior partner in Merkel's coalition government — had already called for weapons exports to the kingdom to be halted. Germany is the fourth largest exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia after the United States, Britain and France.

But this is not the first time the German government has made such a pledge. A clause exists in the coalition agreement, signed by Germany's governing parties earlier this year, which says that no weapons exports may be approved to any country "directly" involved in the war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has launched countless airstrikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for several years.

But the German coalition agreement makes no mention of honoring deals that have previously been struck. For that reason, the government has made an exception for a 2015 deal for 30 military patrol boats built in the northeastern region of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. The Saudi Navy has been maintaining a blockade of ports in Yemen, a country currently experiencing the worst famine for 100 years, according to the United Nations.

The Riyadh government also receives weapons, or weapons parts, from multinational European companies, including Eurofighter, and MBDA, a company that makes missiles.

The coalition deal does say that German companies are entitled to protection of trust if they can prove that the weapons delivered will remain in the country that they are sold to. Such "end-use" guarantees, however, are almost impossible to enforce, as is shown by the case of G36 assault rifle, built by the southern German firm Heckler & Koch. Saudi Arabia bought a license to manufacture its own G36 rifles in 2008, and they have since also been used in the Yemen war.

In addition, German defense giant Rheinmetall founded an ammunition factory in Saudi Arabia in 2016 in a joint venture with the South African company Denel.

The chorus demanding Germany halt weapons exports to Saudi Arabia was joined on Monday by Tarek Al-Wazir, the Green party's leading candidate in this Sunday's Hesse state election, whose Yemeni father still lives in Sanaa. "This should finally be the time to change Germany's policy," he said.

Late Monday, Merkel-ally Norbert Röttgen, who chairs parliament's foreign affairs committee, joined similar calls, telling German broadcaster ZDF that even "deals that were already approved" should be suspended.

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07:12 mins.
DW News | 22.10.2018

'We hope Turkey will do the right thing'

Consultancy scandal

Germany's opposition Green party has also called for the government to stop giving contracts to consultancy firm McKinsey, following a report in The New York Times that the US company had gathered information for the Saudi government about its critics. 

"From my point of view it is untenable for Germany to work together with this consultancy firm until these accusations have been exhaustively investigated," the Green party's former leader Cem Özdemir told Der Spiegel. A number of German government ministries are McKinsey clients. 

According to the New York Times, the Saudi government arrested one critic and imprisoned two brothers of another critic, who was living in Canada, after a McKinsey report identified them as driving a social media conversation criticizing austerity measures in the country in 2015. In a statement to the paper, McKinsey responded that it had "seen no evidence to suggest that [its report] was misused," though the company was "horrified" by the possibility.

Read more: Saudi Arabia is Germany's second-best weapons customer

Body not located

Merkel said Germany would discuss further "reactions" to the case with its international partners, though some German companies have already made gestures: on Monday, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser cancelled an appearance at an investors' conference in Riyadh that was to begin on Tuesday.

On Saturday, the chancellor said the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi's death was insufficient— and that those responsible for the killing "must be held accountable."

Merkel's comments came after Saudi Arabia's foreign minister described the killing of Khashoggi as part of a "rogue operation," adding that the circumstances of his death — and the whereabouts of the body — were unknown.

The Saudis have said Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed in a "fistfight" at its consulate in Istanbul, having previously insisted that he had left the building. Khashoggi had been at the diplomatic office to seek paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Read more: Saudi Arabia: Powerful, but not omnipotent after Khashoggi affair

Turkish officials say he was murdered — and his body dismembered — and that they have audio and video evidence.

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03:07 mins.
DW News | 20.10.2018

DW's Nadar Alsarras on Saudi claims about Khashoggi's death

Trump not keen on arms embargo

Last month, Germany approved €416 million ($480 million) worth of military exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018. In the past, such exports have mostly consisted of patrol boats.

Read more: Mass starvation looms quietly as civil war in Yemen rages

Amid calls across the world for arms embargoes against Saudi Arabia, US President Donald Trump has said his country would be "punishing itself" if it halted weapons sales to the country.

"There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we'll do them," Trump said on Saturday, without elaborating.

The US president has repeatedly said he does not want to stop a proposed $110 billion arms sale to the Saudis because too many US jobs depend on it.


Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Vanishes into thin air

October 2: Prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain an official document for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. He never emerged from the building, prompting Cengiz, who waited outside, to raise the alarm.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Confusion over whereabouts

October 3: Turkish and Saudi officials came up with conflicting reports on Khashoggi's whereabouts. Riyadh said the journalist had left the mission shortly after his work was done. But Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the journalist was still in the consulate.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Murder claims

October 6: Turkish officials said they believed the journalist was likely killed inside the Saudi consulate. The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi wrote, cited unnamed sources to report that Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team "came from Saudi Arabia" to kill the man.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Ankara seeks proof

October 8: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Saudi Arabia to prove that Khashoggi left its consulate in Istanbul. Turkey also sought permission to search the mission premises. US President Donald Trump voiced concern about the journalist's disappearance.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

'Davos in the Desert' hit

October 12: British billionaire Richard Branson halted talks over a $1 billion Saudi investment in his Virgin group's space ventures, citing Khashoggi's case. He also pulled out of an investment conference in Riyadh dubbed the "Davos in the Desert." His move was followed by Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi, JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and a host of other business leaders.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Search operation

October 15: Turkish investigators searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The search lasted more than eight hours and investigators removed samples from the building, including soil from the consulate garden and a metal door, one official said.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Death after fistfight

October 19: Saudi Arabia finally admitted that Khashoggi died at the consulate. The kingdom's public prosecutor said preliminary investigations showed the journalist was killed in a "fistfight." He added that 18 people had been detained. A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said the country is "investigating the regrettable and painful incident."

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

'Grave mistake'

October 21: Saudi Arabia provided yet another account of what happened to Khashoggi. The kingdom's foreign minister admitted the journalist was killed in a "rogue operation," calling it a "huge and grave mistake," but insisted that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had not been aware of the murder. Riyadh said it had no idea where Khashoggi's body was.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Germany halts arms sales

October 21: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would put arms exports to Saudi Arabia on hold for the time being, given the unexplained circumstances of Khashoggi's death. Germany is the fourth largest exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia after the United States, Britain and France.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Strangled to death, dissolved in acid

October 31: The Turkish prosecutor concluded that Khashoggi was strangled to death soon after entering the consulate, and was then dismembered. Another Turkish official later claimed the body was dissolved in acid. Turkish President Erdogan said the order to murder the journalist came from "the highest levels" of Saudi Arabia's government.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Grilled at the UN

November 5: Saudi Arabia told the United Nations it would prosecute those responsible for Khashoggi's murder. This came as the United States and dozens of other countries raised the journalist's death before the UN Human Rights Council and called for a transparent investigation.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Fiancee in mourning

November 8: Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, wrote on Twitter that she was "unable to express her sorrow" upon learning that the journalist's body was dissolved with chemicals. "Are these killers and those behind it human beings?" she tweeted.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Turkey shares audio recordings

November 10: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reveals that officials from Saudi Arabia, the US, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Symbolic funeral prayers

November 16: A symbolic funeral prayer for Khashoggi is held in the courtyard of the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul. Yasin Aktay, advisor to President Erdogan, speaks at the service.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Saudi-owned villas searched

November 26: Turkish forensic police bring the investigation to the Turkish province of Yalova, where sniffer dogs and drones search two Saudi-owned villas in the village Samanli.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

100 days since killing

January 10: Amnesty International Turkey members demonstrate outside the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, marking 100 day since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. One woman holds up a street sign which reads "Jamal Khashoggi Street". The organization has called for an international investigation into the case.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Saudi murder trial begins

January 3: The Khashoggi trial begins in Saudi Arabia, where state prosecutors say they will seek the death sentence for five of the eleven suspects. A request for the gathered evidence has been send to Turkish authorities. A date for the second hearing has not yet been set.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

UN inquiry team in Turkey

January 28: Agnes Callamard, who is leading the UN probe into the handling of the Khashoggi case, arrives in Ankara where she meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The human rights expect will stay in the country for the rest of the week to speak with prosecutors and others involved in the case.


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