Germany is continuing to train Saudi military officers, despite tensions over Saudi involvement in the Yemen civil war, according to information from the German Defense Ministry received by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) Monday.
Five Saudi soldiers are to start an officers' course with the German army in July, and a further two will be trained by the air force. Over recent months, they have taken German language courses in Germany. Another seven Saudis will attend a German language course in Germany from July with a view to starting officers' training next year. The training was agreed upon when German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Riyadh in December 2016. The German government allowed the export of certain military equipment and technology to countries directly involved in the war in Yemen, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to reports from German media. The move came two weeks after the German government extended a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia by six months until the end of September, but is making a conditional exception for systems developed jointly with other countries.
Germany imposed a partial arms embargo on countries involved in the Yemen conflict and slapped a total ban on Saudi Arabia in November last year following the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. That ban was recently partially lifted in response to pressure from Britain and France in particular regarding arms exports with German components that fell under the ban. The ban's future had been hotly disputed in the governing coalition, with the center-left Social Democrats pushing to hold a very restrictive line, while Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc was keen at least to mollify Germany's European partners.
The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE has been using weapons produced in Europe and the U.S. to kill and wound hundreds of civilians in Yemen, according to a report released by a Yemen-based human rights group last month. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, previously the Saudi defense minister and Saudi Arabia's allies launched Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015. The ongoing war has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with an estimated 24 million people, close to 80 percent of the population, in need of assistance and protection in Yemen, according to the U.N. The World Health Organization says some 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition intervened in 2015, but rights groups state the death toll could be five times as high.