Germany to withdraw tank deal with Saudi Arabia

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Germany is expected to reject a request by Saudi Arabia for hundreds of main battle tanks, a leading German newspaper reports.

Das Bild wrote the Berlin government would not approve a Saudi request for up to 800 Leopard-2A7 MBTs.

The newspaper added the deal was opposed by leading members of the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, particularly Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

“Without agreement from the economy minister, the deal has no chance,” Bild said.

If correct, the newspaper report could signal the end of Berlin’s plans to become a leading military supplier to the Arab world. Many in parliament have questioned German arms sales to Saudi Arabia, deemed a leading violator of human rights.

“He [Gabriel] has positioned himself against a tanks delivery to the autocratic royal house,” Bild said in a report on April 13.

The Saudi MBT procurement was estimated at up to $25 billion. Over the last year, Riyadh, disappointed with the US rapprochement with Iran, has sought to diversify military suppliers.

Bild said the opposition to the sale has stopped Merkel from submitting the proposal to the National Security Council. Merkel has led efforts to expand German arms exports, particularly to the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC).

The government has refused to respond to the Bild report. Germany was also preparing to deliver MBTs and other armored vehicles to Saudi’s chief rival in the PGCC, Qatar.

“We have to be clear what this means for the German arms industry,” Michael Fuchs, a leading parliamentarian, said. “If the German arms firms can no longer export outside the NATO alliance, there will be no arms industry in Germany anymore.”

According to the Persian Gulf Research Center, Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly in defiance of international criticism.

Peaceful demonstrations and gatherings are banned and many people have been jailed merely for posting harmless messages on social media, it said.

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