German churches succeed in blocking Mideast arms deals

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LONDON — The church has helped block German arms exports to the Middle East.

Leading churches have joined with the opposition to lobby against major German weapons deals with Middle East allies. Clergymen said the lobbying reduced deliveries of weapons and components to Saudi Arabia.

Heckler & Koch G36 rifle
Heckler & Koch G36 rifle

“There has been a drastic reduction in small arms shipments to third states,” the Joint Conference Church and Development said.

The conference, which met in December 2014, cited a drop in German light arms deliveries to the Middle East. They included a ban by the Berlin government on Germany’s Heckler & Koch on delivering components for the G-36 assault rifle for Saudi Arabia.

“We welcome the announcement of strict criteria for small arms exports and the steps towards a more effective control of final destination,” Karl Justen, a Catholic prelate and chairman of the Joint Conference, said.

The Joint Conference has drafted and submitted defense export studies to the government and parliament since 1997. In the latest report, the church group said small arms deliveries fell from 18 million euro in the first half of 2013 to 1.4 million euro during the same period this year.

The Middle East has marked a rapidly growing defense market for Germany. Over the last year, the German media have reported impending multi-billion-euro arms deals with Algeria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Algeria, for example, was granted German permission to produce the Fuchs armored personnel carrier. Berlin also approved the sale of 146 patrol boats to Riyad.

“A worrying development is the still rising importance of North African states and countries from the Middle East as recipient countries of German arms exports,” Justen said. “In doing this, the government is largely giving away control over re-exports and final destination.”

In its latest report, the Joint Conference said Algeria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia marked the leading non-NATO defense clients of Germany. The report said Algeria procured 825.7 million euro and Qatar ordered 673.3 million euro worth of German weapons. During the first half of 2014, arms export licenses to non-NATO clients reached 63.5 percent.

“What was intended to be an exception has become the rule,” Justen said.

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