German arms exports to Arab, Middle Eastern countries surge amid conflict

German arms exports to Arab, Middle Eastern countries surge amid conflict
Pictures of German Leopard tanks deployed during Turkey's Afrin offensive sparked controversy back home.
2 min read
24 January, 2018
German Leopard tanks were recently deployed in Afrin [AFP/Getty]

Germany’s current government has approved over €25 billion in arms sales since taking power in 2014 – more than any German government in modern history, according to a Tuesday report by broadcaster ARD.

Berlin approved over €14 billion in exports to states outside the EU and NATO, a 47 per cent increase compared to Merkel’s prior 2010-2013 cabinet.

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who have been in a coalition with Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) since 2013, had earlier pledged to curb arms exports ahead of the power-sharing agreement.

The SPD’s Sigmar Gabriel was tapped as head of Germany’s Ministry of Economy, and the ministry must approve arms exports.

“Four years ago, the SPD promised to turn away from export policy that was purely based on economy,” Stefan Liebich, a Left Party member, told ARD in an interview. “In reality, the floodgates were not closed, but opened even wider.”

The top purchaser of German arms is Algeria, which imported €1.36 billion in recent years. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are also in the top-ten list, according to broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Tuesday’s report follows recent controversial news that Turkey deployed German-built tanks as part of its Afrin offensive in the Kurdish-controlled area of northwestern Syria.

Green party lawmaker and defence expert Agnieszka Brugger told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper that “an immediate halt to all arms exports to Turkey is long overdue” following the circulation of Leopard tank images online.

Even MPs from Merkel’s CDU called on Gabriel to halt exports. The chair of the Bundestag’s foreign policy committee and a CDU member, Norbert Röttgen, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Operation Olive Branch violates international law.

German officials declined to comment on the sale and use of Leopard tanks and have yet to condemn Ankara’s offensive.

Last week German officials announced they would “immediately” stop approving arms sales to any party in the Yemen war.