The SPD actually wanted to stop arms exports to countries waging war in Yemen. Now it turns out: the coalition agreement left back doors open.
Federal police, customs and navy want to take over seven ships actually built for Saudi Arabia Photo: dpa
In its first year in office, the German government has approved arms deliveries worth around 400 million euros to the Saudi Arabia-led Yemen war alliance. Despite a partial export ban agreed by the CDU/CSU and SPD in the coalition agreement, 208 individual licenses were issued for the eight countries involved in the first twelve months after the cabinet was sworn in. That is according to a response to a question from Green Party member of the Bundestag Omid Nouripour, which was obtained by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Saudi Arabia had formed the alliance in 2015 to support the Yemeni government in its fight against Iranian-backed Shiite Huthi rebels. The war has triggered a huge humanitarian crisis in the Arabian Peninsula country.
Against this backdrop, the SPD pushed for an export ban on countries involved in the war during coalition negotiations. The CDU/CSU only agreed to a significantly weakened formulation. Arms deliveries to countries "directly" involved were banned and transactions already pre-approved were exempted.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are considered to be the most heavily involved. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is deploying about 100 fighter jets, according to the Saudi-affiliated TV station "Al-Arabiya." The UAE has deployed soldiers mainly in the south of Yemen around the port city of Aden.
The licenses issued for these two countries in the first year of the government together account for three-quarters of the total volume of 398 million euros for the war alliance. For Saudi Arabia alone, ten licenses were issued with a value of 255 million euros – but all before November 2018, since when a complete export ban has been in place due to the killing of Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi, over which the coalition is currently in dispute. For the UAE, 68 licenses worth 57 million euros were issued.
Supplies worth millions were also approved for other members of the war alliance: Kuwait (65 authorizations with a total value of 47.7 million euros), Bahrain (9/16.2 million euros), Egypt (35/11.8 million euros), Jordan (19/11.3 million euros). Even for Senegal two exports were approved with a value of about 55,000 euros, only for Yemen itself there were no export licenses. Morocco left the war coalition in February.
Green Party arms expert Katja Keul sharply criticized the continuation of arms exports to the countries of the Yemen alliance and called for a "definitive export stop" for the entire war coalition. "The German government must finally stand by its responsibility and put a stop to arms exports to crisis areas," she said.
Coalition dispute over export ban
Meanwhile, SPD Vice Chairman Ralf Stegner also warns against any softening of the arms export ban in the coalition dispute over its extension. He rejects considerations of at least partially accommodating European arms partners and at least allowing exports of jointly produced armaments with low German participation. "When you say ‘no arms exports to crisis areas and dictatorships,’ that means none. And not: a little bit," Stegner said on ZDF’s "Morgenmagazin" on Thursday.
"Exports to Saudi Arabia are not in the European interest. These are not European defense concerns that are affected there. That you have to cooperate on procurements and things like that in Europe, that’s fine."
The dispute between the CDU/CSU and SPD over extending the arms export ban on Saudi Arabia is dragging on. Just days before the self-imposed end-of-month deadline for a compromise, an attempt to reach an agreement by the Federal Security Council, which meets in secret, failed at the Chancellor’s Office on Wednesday. The body, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), adjourned its deliberations to an unspecified date. The search for a solution is to continue at party level for the time being.
Federal government takes over boats
Several defense companies reserve the right to take legal action against the German government in the event of a further extension. Among others, 300 jobs at the Lurssen shipyard in Wolgast (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) are affected by the export ban.
However, there now seems to be a solution to this. Federal police, customs and navy want to take over seven ships actually built for Saudi Arabia if the arms export ban to the country is extended by another six months. This was reported by Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), citing circles in the German government. The six patrol boats and one training vessel have already been completed by the Bremen-based Lurssen Group and were actually to be delivered to Saudi Arabia. The patrol boats would cost a total of 120 million euros, the training ship 45 million.
According to RND, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) have agreed to the deal. It is not yet clear how many ships will be taken over by which ministry.