German Chancellor Merkel Throws Future Military Sales to Saudi Arabia Into Doubt

October 21, 2018, 8:31 PM UTC

Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that Germany will suspend exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia pending investigations into the death of government critic Jamal Khashoggi.

“As far as weapons exports, which are already limited, are concerned, they cannot take place in the same fashion as they are now,” Merkel said in Berlin Sunday after a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union party’s executive.

Her comments build on an earlier response to Saudi Arabia’s account that the journalist was killed during an altercation at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. The events “still haven’t been cleared up and of course we demand that they be cleared up,” she said Saturday.

Germany is adding to the pressure on Saudi Arabia over the death of Khashoggi, a journalist. Her comments reflect a collective shock in Europe and elsewhere at the as-yet unexplained events in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that could fundamentally effect ties with the kingdom.

“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.

German arms exports are subject to government approval, including cabinet review. Saudi Arabia ranked sixth last year with approved sales of 254 million euros ($292 million), mostly reflecting deliveries of patrol boats, according to a government report published in June.

Social Democratic Party head Andrea Nahles called for a comprehensive review of German-Saudi relations, according to an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Nahles and Maas are members of the party, which is a junior partner in Merkel’s government.

Asked whether Siemens AG Chief Executive Joe Kaeser should skip this week’s Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Maas said it’s a company decision.

“We have a great deal of understanding for those who have canceled their participation,” he added.