Germany to train Saudi soldiers despite Yemen war concerns
The German army will train seven Saudi soldiers, five of which are due to begin an officer's training course in July while the other two will receive training with the German air force.
German language courses will be provided to seven more Saudi soldiers in July, before the force begins training in 2020.
The programme was initiated as part of 2016 agreement made between German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen during an official trip to Saudi Arabia.
Last year, Germany imposed a ban on Saudi arms sales following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last year.
In March, Germany extended a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia by six months until the end of September, when a decision was made late last year to freeze sales of military equipment of countries involved in the Yemen conflict.
Merkel's government has faced political pressure at home over overall weapons sales, which include Leopard tanks used by Turkey to fight Kurdish militias.
But it has also faced increasing protests from European partners including France and the UK over the issue. The two countries say the ban prevents them selling jointly developed equipment with German components to Saudi Arabia.
Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron dismissed Germany's call for other countries to join an export freeze to Saudi Arabia, saying it was "pure demagoguery to call for a halt".
Germany is among the world's top arms exporters, a group led by the US that also includes Russia, China, France and the UK.
There was a decision to make an exception for arms that are manufactured with other countries - such as the Eurofighter and Tornado jets, when a ban triggered anger from EU partners - France and the UK.
Berlin said it would push for jointly produced weapons not to be used in the war in Yemen and for no "fully assembled" products to be delivered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE through the end of this year.
Germany has a troubled relationship with foreign arms sales, a legacy of its dark past. Polls show that around two thirds of German citizens reject weapons exports.
More than four years into the Saudi-Emirati war on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, recent figures by ACLED suggest that more than 70,000 have been killed since the coalition intervened to reinstate the government following the rebels' takeover of the capital.
The conflict has pushed millions of Yemenis to the brink of mass starvation but efforts to end the conflict for the country's 27 million population have so far failed to blossom.
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