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Germany urges joint European stance on Saudi arms exports, France dodges

By Agencies - Oct 22,2018 - Last updated at Oct 22,2018

French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman attend a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on April 10 (Reuters file photo)

Berlin — European nations should take a joint stance on whether to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Monday, the Agence France-Presse reported.

When asked about whether France is going to hold the line, French Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Olivier Gauvin did not explicitly confirm or deny.

He said only that France's arms sales control policy was strict and based on case-by-case analysis by an inter-ministerial committee.

"Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are examined in this context," he told a daily briefing, without elaborating.

Earlier, Germany’s Altmaier reiterated Chancellor Angela Merkel's statement from Sunday, saying Berlin "at this stage will not approve further arms exports because we want to know what happened", adding that "all explanations so far have been unsatisfactory".

But Altmaier, a close Merkel confidant, stressed that "there won't be any positive effects if only we halt exports and then other countries fill the gap".

"Only when all European nations are in agreement will this make an impression on Riyadh," he said, speaking on public television.

Merkel had said Sunday that "when it comes to our already limited arms exports... they cannot take place in the current situation".

Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday the government was still discussing internally whether or not to bloc exports already authorised in recent months but not yet delivered.

Germany last month approved 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018.

In the past, German military exports to Saudi have mostly consisted of patrol boats, and they have been far lower than those from Britain and France, who have not indicated they want exports to stop.

Germany and Saudi Arabia only returned their ambassadors in September after 10 months of frosty relations following criticism from Berlin of what it said was Saudi interference in Lebanese affairs.

The Khashoggi case has opened a serious new rift, with Britain, France and Germany demanding that Saudi clarify how the journalist died inside its Istanbul consulate.

After a fortnight of denials, Saudi authorities admitted Saturday that Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was killed after entering the consulate in Turkey on October 2.

But it has faced a growing chorus of incredulity over its belated explanation that he died in a "brawl", as world powers demand answers and information on the whereabouts of his body.

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