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Germany is taking a step to punish Saudi Arabia that Trump has repeatedly said he won't go near

Sinéad Baker
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she supports the suspension of arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • It is a step that President Donald Trump has signalled his opposition to, citing the value of US arms exports to the kingdom.
  • Germany's exports to Saudi Arabia are significantly smaller than those from the US, but halting sales would still have an impact: Germany is the world's fourth-largest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia.
  • Saudi Arabia is also Germany's second-largest weapons customer.
  • Suspending sales to the kingdom could be done with little fuss in Germany: Arms exports need to be approved on a case-by-case basis, and they can simply decide to stop doing that.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled that Germany will suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the kingdom's admission to the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khoshoggi - a step to punish Riyadh that Trump has repeatedly said he won't go near.

Merkel appeared dubious of Saudi Arabia's claims that Khashoggi died due to a rogue operation gone wrong, telling reporters in Berlin on Sunday, according to Politico, that there was an "urgent need for further clarification."

She added, according to Politico: "As far as weapons exports, which are already limited, are concerned, they cannot take place in the same fashion as they are now."

Other senior German politicians, including foreign minister Heiko Maas and foreign affairs committee chairman Norbert Röttgen, have also called for a halt in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing dissatisfaction with Riyadh's explanation of how Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The German response to Khashoggi's death comes in stark contrast to that of the Trump administration.

Angela Merkel Donald Trump NATO

Shortly after Saudi Arabia admitted to Khashoggi's death, Trump said that he did not want to ruin a "tremendous order" of weapons from Saudi Arabia, and that he would prefer "some form of sanction."

The €416 million ($US479 million/£367 million) of arms exports Germany approved to Saudi Arabia for this year pales in comparison to the arrangement between the US and the kingdom.

Trump heralded Saudi Arabia's purchase of $US110 billion worth of US arms in 2017, though experts say that figure is inflated and some parts of the deal appear to still be up in the air.

But Germany's decision does still come with financial impact. Saudi Arabia is Germany's second-largest weapons customer, according to official data reported by German news agency DPA.

Angela Merkel German Military

Germany is the world's fourth-largest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia, after the US, the UK, and France, Politico reported.

In Germany, arms exports are subject to government approval, including cabinet review, and Merkel has the support of other German politicians, including those from other parties.

Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Saturday that there was "no basis" for further exports of weapons to Saudi Arabia and said there were "several contradictions" in Saudi Arabia's official explanation of the death.

Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that Khashoggi was involved in "a physical confrontation, which resulted in his death."

The kingdom has repeatedly blamed rogue agents inside the consulate and sought to deny accusations that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was involved in the death.

But Maas, in a television interview with ARD on Saturday night, said:

"First it was stated that the Saudi journalist had left the consulate, now it is stated that he did die.

"As long as these investigations are ongoing, as long as we don't know what has happened there, there is no basis on which we can take positive decisions for arms exports to Saudi Arabia."