Germany’s SPD wants to extend arms export halt to Saudi

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FILE PHOTO: German Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Andrea Nahles delivers a statement following the Hesse state election, in Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) want to extend a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, party sources said, setting the stage for a row with their conservative coalition partners.

Under pressure from European allies, many of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want to end the ban to avoid hurting Germany’s commercial reputation and undermining its ambitions to develop a common European defense policy.

The moratorium runs until the end of March.

Two party sources told Reuters on Tuesday that the parliamentary party had backed SPD leader Andrea Nahles in her call for an extension until October.

“It should be agreed with our European partners that equipment that is dependent on German supplies will not be allowed to be used in the Yemen war,” said one participant in the meeting.

The SPD, languishing in opinion polls before four regional elections this year, is keen to woo traditional voters skeptical about arms sales and worried about Saudi involvement in Yemen’s war.

The freeze has put a question mark over billions of euros of military orders, including a 10 billion pound ($13.27 billion) deal to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Riyadh.

Among countries opposed to the German government policy are key allies Britain and France.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Michelle Martin

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