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Jan 11 2019

Sharp increase in German arms exports to Saudi Arabia and Turkey

German arms exports to Turkey and Saudi Arabia rose significantly last year, eclipsing sales in 2017 despite public criticism, German weekly Die Zeit reported on Jan. 10.

German firms sent €160 million ($184 million) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia between January and October last year, Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics said in response to a question submitted by the opposition Left party (Die Linke), meaning the value of exports in the first ten months of the year was €50 million higher than in 2017 as a whole.

Berlin only decided on a full stop in November, prompted by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Restrictions had already been in place due to Riyadh's role in the war in Yemen.

Exports to Turkey more than tripled during the same period. While the total value in 2017 was around €62.3 million, it reached €202.2 million in the first ten months of 2018. The exports were mainly deliveries for the navy, though the government's answer does not provide any further details.

Turkey has been the focus of criticism in Germany because of its role in the Syrian war, where Turkish operations since 2016 have seized territories in the north from Kurdish militias, and the increasingly authoritarian policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Die Zeit said.

"The arms exports are controversial among other things because Erdoğan's government is also taking military action against Kurds in Syria," the weekly newspaper said.

Ankara deems the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist organisation and the Syrian offshoot of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has staged insurgencies inside Turkey for decades. The Turkish government recently vowed to launch a third military operation in northern Syrian territories controlled by the Syrian Kurds.

Speaking to the German ZDF television, Left party federal lawmaker Sevim Dağdelen, who had submitted the parliamentary question, accused Germany's arms industry of making "strong profits from the criminal war in Yemen as well as the aggressive foreign policy of Erdoğan."

Dağdelen said the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel must "do everything" to hinder further exports to Riyadh and Ankara and end what she termed its "shabby" arms policy.

Merkel last month pledged to present a new guideline for Germany's military exports that would tighten up the standards in force since 2000.

The 2000 guideline states that sales should not proceed when sufficient suspicion exists that they can be used for domestic repression and systematic human rights violations within the importing country.