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‘Useless’ to make arms together if you won’t let us export them to Saudis, France moans to Germany

‘Useless’ to make arms together if you won’t let us export them to Saudis, France moans to Germany
France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has put renewed pressure on Berlin to drop its restrictions on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, imposed last year in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“It is useless to produce weapons through improved cooperation between France and Germany if we are unable to export them,” Le Maire told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“If you want to be competitive and efficient, we need to be able to export to countries outside Europe.”

France and Germany have signed contracts for several major new projects in the past year alone, including Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) – a next-generation system that will unite planes, drones, satellites and ground missiles into a single operating unit.

However, the plans were derailed as emerging facts made it harder to deny Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of Khashoggi inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul last October. The following month, Berlin imposed an embargo on future arms deals with Riyadh, and informally froze existing supplies without canceling the contracts outright.

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Following in the footsteps of UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's pronouncements earlier this week, Le Maire also urged Germany to get off the high moral ground.

“When you live in a violent world, your first task is to protect your people. If they want to protect their people, they need defense, a strong army and, from an economic point of view, more innovation, more investment, more protection,” Le Maire said on Sunday.

“That’s exactly what we want to build together with Germany and the other European states.”

It appears that the combined pressure from politicians and arms manufacturers is having the desired effect, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel promising “to move step-by-step towards common export controls guidelines” during her speech at the Munich Security Conference last week.

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The German media also subsequently revealed a publicly undisclosed adjunct to a bilateral treaty signed last month, which promised to drop restrictions on joint exports, forcing Merkel’s government to deny that she had made a “secret deal” with French President Emmanuel Macron.

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