‘No military solution’: Merkel calls on Saudi to halt airstrikes in Yemen

Published May 1st, 2017 - 07:00 GMT
Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel arrives to take part in the EU leaders summit at the Europa building, the main headquarters of European Council and the Council of the EU, in Brussels, on April 29, 2017. (AFP/Thierry Charlier)
Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel arrives to take part in the EU leaders summit at the Europa building, the main headquarters of European Council and the Council of the EU, in Brussels, on April 29, 2017. (AFP/Thierry Charlier)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an end to Saudi Arabian airstrikes in Yemen, during a visit to the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on Sunday.

"We do not believe that there can be a military solution to this conflict," Merkel said, expressing support for the UN-led attempt to find a diplomatic solution.

Saudi Arabia has led an air campaign for more than two years against Iran-allied rebels in Yemen, which is beset by civil war.

Speaking after a meeting with King Salman in Jeddah, Merkel spoke of progress in military relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia, but also criticized the human rights situation in the country. 

Earlier on Sunday, Merkel signed an agreement that opens the possibility of Saudi Arabian military personnel being trained at German armed forces facilities.

Germany and Saudi Arabia also signed a declaration of intent on police cooperation, which includes German policewomen training female Saudi border guards, and training in the area of aviation security. 

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said it plans no further weapons purchases from Germany, according to a report published in German weekly Der Spiegel.

"We understand the German hesitance when it comes to exports to Saudi Arabia," Saudi Deputy Economic Minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri told the magazine, just ahead of Merkel's visit.

"We won't be stubborn when it comes to weapons deals. We won't run up against German mores," al-Tuwaijri told Der Spiegel.

He said the decision was based upon a wish for better relations with Berlin. "Relations with Germany are more important to us than any fight about weapons exports."

The German public is traditionally wary of arms deals and Merkel has been pressured to end sales to countries with precarious human rights records.

In 2015, Germany issued 17 individual permits for exports of weaponry to the Saudis. The total value of the contracts was 23.8 million euros.

Merkel's one-day visit comes as she steps up her diplomatic campaign ahead of this year's Group of 20 summit, which she will host.

The visit is to be followed by talks on Monday in the United Arab Emirates with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. 

The United Arab Emirates is Germany's most important trade partner in the Gulf, followed by Saudi Arabia.

Merkel will then meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.

Her series of meetings form part of the build-up to the G20 meeting of the leaders of major and emerging economies, which Merkel is to chair in the northern German port city of Hamburg in July.

Both Russia and Saudi Arabia are G20 member states. Berlin currently holds the G20 presidency.


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