Angela Merkel under fire for jump in military exports to Gulf region

Saudi Arabia was by far the biggest customer, receiving arms exports totalling €1.24bn in 2012

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The Independent Online

Angela Merkel’s government came under renewed pressure yesterday over its arms export policies, following the release of figures showing that sales of German weapons and military hardware to the Gulf region more than doubled in 2012.

Figures obtained from Germany’s Economics Ministry by Süddeutsche Zeitung show that arms exports to the six nations belonging to the Gulf Co-operation Council rose to €1.42bn (£1.22bn) last year from €570m in 2011.

Jan van Aken, the opposition Left Party’s defence spokesman, accused Ms  Merkel’s conservative-led coalition of having “no qualms” about “arming the Gulf states to the teeth” and described them as “the German weapons industry’s best customers”.

German arms exports to the region have been strongly criticised by opposition parties in the past because of concerns that they would be used by authoritarian governments to crush dissent in the event of a popular uprising. 

“The worst human rights violations are apparently no longer a reason to deny the approval of exports,” Mr van Aken said.

The figures showed that German weapons and military hardware had been supplied to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Equipment was also supplied to Algeria. Saudi Arabia was by far the biggest customer, receiving arms exports totalling €1.24bn in 2012.

The Economics Ministry said most of the German military hardware exported to Riyadh involved border security equipment. Ms Merkel’s government has insisted that the exports are in the interests of regional security.

In 2011, the Merkel government came under fire after giving approval for the supply of Leopard 2 battle tanks to the Saudi government. Late last year it was revealed that it had secretly agreed to supply Riyadh with several hundred Boxer armoured patrol cars. Human rights activists said the vehicles could be used to transport troops and police to break up anti-government protests.

Greens leader Jürgen Trittin rejected government claims that the exports were in Germany’s interests. “It is simply not true that Saudi Arabia plays a clear role against terror,” he said.

The government had no immediate comment.

Gulf arms spending

€1.24bn Spent by Saudi Arabia on German arms in 2012 – nine times the amount it spent the year before.

€1.42bn Spent by Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE on German arms in 2012.

€570m The amount those countries spent on German arms in 2011.