VILNIUS — The German government on Wednesday agreed to soften its stance on arms exports to Saudi Arabia while continuing to block deliveries of Eurofighter planes — a move that risks upsetting Britain, which is implicated in the the production of the fighter aircraft.
Germany imposed an arms export embargo on Saudi Arabia in 2018 following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Riyadh’s involvement in the war in Yemen. In recent months, some members of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government coalition have exerted increasing pressure, particularly from the business-friendly Liberal Democratic Party (FDP). — reconsider arms export to Saudi Arabia after reaching a ceasefire with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen last year.
Arms exports to conflict regions are a particularly sensitive topic for the Greens, one of the coalition partners of Scholz’s Social Democrats, alongside the FDP.
The German government deviated from its long-held stance of not supplying arms to war zones when it agreed last year for the first time to send its own weapons to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion .
Scholz reached an agreement with the Greens and the FDP to allow arms exports to Saudi Arabia “in specific individual cases”, Scholz spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement praising the efforts of ceasefire of Saudi Arabia, without specifying what the criteria are for these cases.
These weapons, he added, should not be used in Yemen and should not be used in connection with possible human rights violations.
Scholz told reporters on Wednesday that the deal did not change Berlin’s stance on fighter jet deliveries to Riyadh, which Germany has blocked.
“I can tell you: a decision on the delivery of a Eurofighter to Saudi Arabia is not on the agenda for the foreseeable future,” the chancellor said during his summit closing press conference. of NATO in Vilnius.
A German government official, who was granted anonymity to speak freely, told POLITICO there would be no permission to export Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia during the current legislative period, which runs until the end of 2025.
The decision could upset the UK, which is pushing to allow Eurofighter jets to be delivered to Riyadh, according to a report by Welt, a German sister publication to POLITICO.
Saudi Arabia, which already has 72 Eurofighters, agreed five years ago with London on an option to order four dozen additional planes jointly developed by the Franco-German company Airbus (although France withdrew more later), the British BAE Systems and the Italian Leonardo. These countries can veto aircraft exports to other countries, which Germany used in this case.
However, Germany can allow the delivery of the A400M military cargo plane, developed between several European countries, to the United Arab Emirates. Scholz stressed the importance of cooperation on various armament projects in Europe during his press conference on Wednesday, and named the A400M specifically as an aircraft eligible for export.
Sara Nanni, defense policy spokeswoman for the German Greens, welcomed the decision not to allow deliveries of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, but stressed that the Emirates should not get the A400M.
“They will use it to distribute weapons in the region – it will achieve the opposite of prevention and stability,” Nanni told POLITICO.