France and Germany close in on weapons export pact

Germany has tough restrictions in place over arms exports to non-EU and non-Nato members

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (L) and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire give a press conference following the 50th French German economic and financial council on September 19, 2019 in Paris.   / AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN
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France and Germany said on Thursday they were close to an agreement on exporting weapons made jointly by the two countries, after French companies called for easing of Berlin's restrictions.

German limits on arms exports to non-EU or non-Nato countries has been a sore point in co-operation for years.

Germany's SPD party, part of the ruling coalition, is particularly concerned about the trade.

French companies such as Nexter and Arquus say the restrictions have hindered deals.

They have urged the authorities to allow the export of weapons with German parts without requiring Berlin's approval.

Germany's government agreed in 2018 to ban arms sales to countries involved in conflicts unless a waiver was granted.

"On the issue of weapons' exports, we have a narrow dialogue with our German friends," French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said, alongside his German equivalent.

"We have found an agreement on this subject."

A French Finance Ministry official said a deal was expected to be signed in coming weeks.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said talks were continuing.

"We have had very constructive discussions and I am confident they will lead to a good result," Mr Scholz said.

"But an announcement will be made only when it is ready and agreed to by all."

French diplomatic sources have said plans for a new warplane system and new tank, to be developed by Paris and Berlin, could be undermined if there was no shift in German policy.

French newspaper La Tribune reported on Monday that a deal had been reached with Berlin.

In response to the report the French Armed Forces Ministry said talks had not concluded. The ministry declined to comment on Mr Le Maire's remarks.

The newspaper quoted sources saying Germany would not block French exports provided equipment was made with less than 20 per cent German parts.