PRAGUE : German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed on Friday that Berlin would not export arms to Saudi Arabia until the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is clarified, a stance French President Emmanuel Macron dubbed “pure demagoguery”.
“The case of journalist Khashoggi is, of course, something incredible, I told the Saudi king yesterday in our telephone conversation,” Merkel said at a press conference with Czech prime minister Andrej Babis.
“We need to clarify the background of this horrible crime and until that, we will not supply weapons to Saudi Arabia,” she added, reiterating comments made earlier this week.
The stance led to a clash with France’s Macron who told reporters in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Friday that stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be “pure demagoguery”.
The sale of weapons “has nothing to do with Mr. Khashoggi. One shouldn’t mix everything up,” he said.
Merkel also insisted on Friday that “Saudi Arabia must do everything to solve the urgent humanitarian situation in Yemen, there are currently millions of hungry people, we are witnesses of one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes”.
Germany last month approved 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018. In the past, military exports by Berlin to Saudi have mostly consisted of patrol boats.
Germany and Saudi Arabia only returned their ambassadors in September after 10 months of frosty relations following criticism from Berlin of what it said was Saudi interference in Lebanese affairs.
The Khashoggi case has opened a serious new rift with European partners Britain, France, and Germany jointly calling for Riyadh to clarify how Khashoggi died inside its Istanbul consulate, and for its account to “be backed by facts to be considered credible”.
After a fortnight of denials, Saudi authorities admitted Saturday that Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed after entering the consulate in Turkey on October 2.
But it has faced a growing chorus of incredulity over its belated explanation that he died in a “brawl”, as world powers demand answers and the location of his body.