Germany mulling over extending Saudi arms ban

BERLIN (AA): Social Democrats on Friday renewed their demand for extending Germany’s arms export ban to Saudi Arabia beyond the March 9 deadline.

Martin Schulz, a senior lawmaker from Social Democratic Party (SPD), has sharply criticized human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and Riyadh’s involvement in the Yemen conflict.

“As long as this state [Saudi Arabia] tramples human rights underfoot and wages a war in Yemen, there is nothing to change in our arms exports ban,” he told German weekly Der Spiegel.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their coalition partner SPD decided last October to stop all arms exports to the Kingdom following the the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his consulate in Istanbul.

However, Germany’s decision was criticized by the U.K. and France, which claimed that Berlin’s arms exports ban also had negative impact on their defense companies, due to various joint projects involving German firms.

Last month, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt asked for exemption for such projects, to enable British companies to fulfill their contracts with Saudi Arabia. Several Christian Democrat politicians this week spoke against renewing the ban, and argued for a compromise solution that would address expectations of the U.K. and France.

On Friday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference in Berlin that talks were still underway among coalition partners on the issue of extending arms export ban to Saudi Arabia. Earlier on Friday, weekly Der Spiegel reported that the coalition reached an initial agreement to extend the ban for two weeks beyond March 9.