No more arms exports to Saudi, Merkel says in aftermath of Khashoggi murder

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a press conference in Berlin on October 21, 2018 ahead of next weekend's regional elections in the west German state of Hesse. (AFP Photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a press conference in Berlin on October 21, 2018 ahead of next weekend's regional elections in the west German state of Hesse. (AFP Photo)

Chancellor Angela Merkel said late Sunday that Germany can no longer sell arms to Saudi Arabia after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally killed in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

Campaigning for her party in a regional election, Merkel repeated to a news conference her earlier condemnation of Khashoggi's killing, which Saudi Arabia admitted had taken place inside its consulate in Istanbul.

"First, we condemn this act in the strongest terms," she said. "Second, there is an urgent need to clarify what happened - we are far from this having been cleared up and those responsible held to account ... As far as arms exports are concerned, those can't take place in the current circumstances."

Germany last month approved 416 million euros ($480 million) worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for 2018. In the past, military exports by Berlin to Saudi have mostly consisted of patrol boats.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had called Saturday for a halt to German arms exports while the investigation into Khashoggi's death continues.

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 European partners Britain, France and Germany saying in a joint statement earlier that Saudi Arabia must clarify how Khashoggi died inside its Istanbul consulate, and its account must "be backed by facts to be considered credible."

On Saturday, after weeks of denying any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, Saudi Arabia said the 59-year-old died in a fistfight at the consulate.

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 the whereabouts of his body.

The crisis has shaken Western confidence in the world's top oil exporter and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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