Macron dodges questions about Saudi arms sales

Macron dodges questions about Saudi arms sales
Questions about France's arms sales to Saudi have intensified after Germany said it would halt exports following Riyadh's murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
2 min read
24 October, 2018
French president Emmanuel Macron greets Saudi Arabia's crown prince [Getty]
France's president on Tuesday refused to take questions about arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite increasing pressure on Western governments to halt exports over Riyadh's killing of dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Reporters asked Emmanuel Macron during a naval defence show if France would follow in Germany's footsteps and halt weapons sales to Riyadh.

"This has nothing to do with what we're talking about. Nothing. So I won't answer that question. I'm sorry but as long as I'll be in office this is how it will be, whether people like it or not," he told reporters. 

"It's not because one leader says something that I must react to it every time. So I won't answer that," he added. 

Germany's Angela Merkel on Monday vowed to halt arms sales to Riyadh, calling the murder of the Washington Post columnist a "monstrosity".

Peter Altmaier, Germany's economy minister, called on other EU states to cut arms sales to Riyadh until the case over Khashoggi is cleared up.

Khashoggi, who penned critical articles about Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

After more than two weeks of vehemently denying Khashoggi was dead and insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, the Saudi government on Saturday said he was killed in a "fist fight" inside the building and that the murder was not state-sanctioned.

Before Riyadh's admission, Turkish sources said a team of 15 Saudi agents were sent to Istanbul and killed Khashoggi before departing from the capital that day.

The hit squad reportedly tortured Khashoggi, cut his fingers off and decapitated him with a bone saw brought from Saudi Arabia for that purpose, according to Turkish media.

Several of the 15-person team have close ties to Saudi Arabia's security services and to the crown prince, including his personal bodyguard Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi as well a forensics expert, Salah al-Tubaigy. 

The murder of Khashoggi has sparked an international outcry and Macron has in turn sought to downplay Paris' relationship with Riyadh.

However, Saudi Arabia is France's second-largest arms buyer and struck deals last year totalling more than $12 billion for tanks and armoured vehicles.

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