German government approves contentious military export to UAE



BERLIN, Michael Fischer and Johannes Schmitt-Tegge (dpa)- The German government has approved a controversial sale of military equipment to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is embroiled in the Yemen conflict.
The Federal Security Council, which is headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, gave the green light at its most recent meeting to the export of generators for an air defence system, according to a letter from Economy Minister Peter Altmaier to parliamentarians seen by dpa.
The export licence is sensitive because the UAE has been a major partner in a Saudi-led alliance fighting in Yemen against Iran-linked Houthi rebels.




The supplier of the generators is Jenoptik Power Systems. The company, which is located in Bavaria, produces generators for Patriot air defence batteries manufactured by the US firm Raytheon.
The UAE is among several countries - including Germany - who use the mobile Patriot systems to protect themselves from air strikes.
Just recently, the US Defense Department had decided to relocate two additional batteries of this type to the small Gulf country, in response to a drone attack on oil facilities in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The UAE has vast oil reserves of its own.
Germany's ruling conservative bloc and Social Democrats had agreed in their 2017 coalition agreement to no longer supply military hardware to countries "directly" involved in the Yemen conflict.
A lack of progress in the fight against the Houthis has in the meantime, however, led to a rift in the Saudi-UAE alliance. In July, it became known that the UAE wanted to progressively withdraw the approximately 5,000 soldiers it had in Yemen at the time.
There is no official information available on how many UAE troops are currently in the war-torn country.
The German government's export decision could be linked to the UAE's change of course in the Yemen conflict, but also to the heightened threat level in the region due to the Iran crisis. Thousands of Germans live in the UAE.
The country also hosts military bases of NATO partners. The United States has around 5,000 soldiers stationed there and flies surveillance missions from the Al Dhafra air base. France also has a naval base in Abu Dhabi with 650 permanently stationed soldiers.
Germany had agreed a strategic partnership with the UAE in 2004 that is now due to be expanded.
The military exports to the UAE never came to a halt despite the coalition agreement. It foresees exceptions that in the first eight months of this year alone led to military export licences for the UAE valued at more than 200 million euros (219 million dollars).
For Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, there has been a German ban on weapons exports since the killing in November 2018 of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
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Friday, October 4th 2019
Michael Fischer and Johannes Schmitt-Tegge (dpa)
           


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