Germany’s SPD wants to extend Saudi arms export halt despite UK-French pressure

The Social Democrats, junior partners in Germany’s ruling coalition, want to extend a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia beyond March 9, despite pressure by Britain and France not to do so and a risk of costly claims for compensation.

Rolf Muetzenich, SPD deputy leader in parliament, said his party would fight to maintain the halt in shipments of already approved weapons deals with Riyadh that Berlin imposed in November over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We will push to continue the halt in arms exports to Saudi Arabia beyond the March 9 deadline, since the reasons for the imposition of the moratorium have not changed,” Muetzenich wrote in an essay published on Monday in the SPD newspaper Vorwaerts.

The SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives agreed in November to reject licences for future arms exports to Saudi Arabia, a major buyer, and imposed a temporary moratorium on deliveries of previously approved equipment, which is due to expire on March 9.

Last week, Merkel declined to say whether the freeze would be extended.

Concerns about Saudi arms sales and a broader push to revamp arms export guidelines are dividing the coalition, with the left-leaning SPD keen to avoid further losses among German voters who are generally cautious on arms sales.

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