Less than a month after Germany authorized a shipment of arms to Saudi Arabia and several of its allies, in violation of an arms-sales ban approved by lawmakers from the country's ruling coalition earlier this year, Germany has once again decided to "punish" the Saudis by putting future arms shipments on hold pending the results of an investigation into the death of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In late September, Germany violated its promise not to supply Saudi Arabia with arms and instead approved a 416.4 million euros ($477 million) shipment to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. Though German economy minister Peter Altmair wrote a letter to parliament members explaining why Germany's government had approved the sales, the decision was still heavily criticized by the country's opposition, per Bloomberg.
In the letter, Altmair revealed that 48 warheads and 91 missiles for UAE warships had been approved, along with 385 anti-tank missiles for Jordan. Qatar was also cleared to receive an armored howitzer, 170 air-to-air missiles and seven air-defense missile systems, according to CNN.
However, the delivery of those arms has now been put on hold. Had they been delivered, they would have qualified Saudi Arabia as the second largest recipient of Germany arms in 2018 after Algeria.
The initial ban, passed in January, was approved by Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, its sister party the Christian Social Union and the center-left Social Democrats. It aimed to end arms sales to countries involved in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, a bloody civil war that has led to thousands of deaths.
Now, it appears the ban is back on.
"As long as there’s a continuing investigation, as long as we don’t know what happened, I believe there is no basis for positive decisions on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview with broadcaster ARD.
In a joint statement, Merkel and Maas have demanded that the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi's killing "be cleared up" and those responsible "held accountable."
Meanwhile, the leader of one of Merkel's coalition partners, Social Democratic Party head Andrea Nahles, has demanded a "comprehensive review" of Germany's relationship with Saudi Arabia, according to an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is also a member of the Social Democratic Party.
German arms exports are typically subject to approval by the German cabinet. Last year, Saudi Arabia ranked sixth among the top importers of German arms, with approved sales of 254 million euros ($292 million).
Per the Associated Press and Bloomberg, when Maas was asked by Bild whether German companies should refuse to attend a business conference in Saudi Arabia next week, Maas said he "certainly wouldn’t" be attending any events in Riyadh, but he refused to comment on specific cases, like Siemens AG Chief Executive Joe Kaeser, saying that whether Kaeser decides to attend is a "company decision."