Germany extends ban on weapon sales to Riyadh

The German government will extend an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia through the end of the month, despite the risk of exacerbating the growing dispute with France and the United Kingdom over sales of jointly produced weapons.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made the announcement during a news conference with his Danish counterpart, Anders Samuelsen, in Berlin on Wednesday. The ban was previously set to expire March 9.

Germany’s objections against arming Riyadh have taken center stage here in the negotiations over boosting the European Union’s defense capabilities. Industry advocates fear that Germany’s restrictive stance on arms exports undermines the production of joint military gear, including a sixth-generation fighter aircraft, a battle tank, and a high-flying drone.

Officials in France and the U.K. have accused Germany of holding up weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the world’s third-largest spender on defense, even when only a relatively small percentage of the overall product is made in Germany. These governments claim this has led to financial losses for their domestic defense industries.

The Merkel government placed a ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia following the death of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

Maas linked the ban to developments in the Yemen civil war, where Saudi Arabia is an active combatant. Government officials are expected to assess the way ahead during this month.

Extension of the ban covers new export licenses. In cases where the government has previously approved a company’s export petition, the equipment would not reach the delivery stage.