Angela Merkel calls for end to Saudi arms embargo

The Chancellor said allies were reliant on German weapons technology

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses delegates during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) on March 21, 2019 in Berlin, ahead of a EU summit largely devoted to Brexit. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN
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Germany risks “moral arrogance” and being seen as an unreliable defence partner if it extends its Saudi Arabia arms embargo, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned.

Britain and France say the German weapons ban, enacted in October 2018 and due to last until the end of March, stops them selling jointly developed technology to Riyadh.

Mrs Merkel has come under pressure from her coalition partners at the Social Democratic Party, who advocate for a stricter set of arms export regulations. The Chancellor told the German parliament that sometimes “we eventually have to be ready to compromise some of our convictions”.

Different countries held different standpoints and Germany needed to be flexible “otherwise we will be viewed as morally arrogant ... or we will be viewed as incapable of compromise,” Mrs Merkel said.

France and Britain need German parts to build their weapons and truly benefit from the lucrative if controversial trade. France is reportedly particularly keen to develop fighter jets and tanks with Germany.

“Failing to export particular weapon parts will make other parts unusable,” said Mrs Merkel, as she urged for compromise.

The Social Democratic Party wants the arms embargo to continue until October.

“In reality, because the UK has a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, we’d been able to play a very important part in making the Stockholm talks happen,” said Britain’s foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said last month.

“And we don’t believe that changing our commercial relationship with Saudi Arabia will help that, in fact we worry that it would do the opposite — it would reduce our influence on that process.”