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INTERVIEW Saudi foreign minister: We don't need German military equipment By Michael Fischer, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Saudi Arabia‘s foreign minister defends the war in Yemen after Germany‘s decision to halt arms exports to countries involved in the conflict in the impoverished Gulf country.

Munich (dpa) - Saudi Arabia will not be affected by Germany‘s decision to halt arms exports to countries involved in the Yemen war, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told dpa.

In January, Germany said it had stopped sales to countries involved in the conflict. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were among the top 10 destinations for German weapons in 2017.

"Is Germany going to stop selling military equipment to all the countries who fight Daesh (Islamic State) in Syria and Iraq? Is Germany going to stop exporting military equipment to all the countries that fight the Taliban in Afghanistan? It seems to me odd that this would happen," al-Jubeir said.

"Saudi Arabia will not be affected by this. But the perception that the German government can be selective in what to sell and what not to sell when you have legitimate wars, is odd to me and does not help with the credibility of the German government," he added during an interview with dpa on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference last week.

An alliance of predominantly Arab states has been fighting in Yemen against the Shiite Houthi rebels since 2015. The alliance includes many countries including Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

The Saudis fear that the rebels will give their regional rival, Shiite Iran, a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia has been repeatedly criticized for targeting civilians in Houthi-controlled areas, while the Saudi-led alliance usually denies that their strikes target civilians.

Around 5,600 civilians have died and some 9,100 have been injured in the war since March 2015, according to the United Nations.

"The war in Yemen is a legitimate war ... It is a defensive war. It is a war that was fought at the invitation of the legitimate government. So there‘s nothing wrong with this war."

The German public is traditionally wary of arms deals and Chancellor Angela Merkel has been under pressure to end sales to countries with precarious human rights records.

Germany said that one exception to the policy shift announced in January is Jordan, which will continue to receive its financial and military support. The kingdom serves as a base for German Tornado fighters and other hardware used by the German armed forces in the fight against Islamic State.

When asked about Jordan‘s role, al-Jubeir declined to give details on how each country is involved.

"Germany either is a credible supplier of defensive equipment or it isn‘t. If Germany has a problem with exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia then we don‘t want to put Germany on the spot. We don‘t need your military equipment. We will find it somewhere else," he said.

Saudi Arabia‘s top diplomat also said Riyadh was "not pleased" with comments made by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in November, when he criticized Saudi meddling in the affairs of Lebanon and describing Saudi foreign policy in the region as "adventurism."

"Lebanon really deserves to determine its own fate and not just be a pawn in the national interests of Syria or Saudi Arabia or others. Ensuring this is our common task," Gabriel said.

Around a week after these comments, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador in Berlin to protest the statements, which Germany later said were not only aimed at Riyadh, but was urging all parties to the conflict to work towards de-escalation.

"We had an issue with some of the comments that were made by German officials and we wanted to express our displeasure at those comments and so we are now in a position where we will see what happens going forward into the formation of the German government," al-Jubeir said.

"And we hope that the relationship can be restored but we want to ensure that Saudi-Arabia is not used as a football," he added, without giving a timeframe for returning the ambassador.

Al-Jubeir also discarded criticism to the conservative kingdom over its death penalty laws.

"That‘s our law. Just let me respect the fact that you don‘t have the death penalty. You should respect the fact that we do have it and other countries in the world have that," the Saudi diplomat said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 26 people so far in 2018.


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