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Germany ready to sell Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government on Monday defended plans to lift Germany’s longstanding veto on sales of Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia, saying Riyadh has adopted a “constructive approach” in the Israel-Hamas war. Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain jointly build the jet and each can veto deals. Berlin has blocked one deal, sought by London, since 2018. But German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, on a visit to Israel on Sunday, signalled that Berlin was ready to lift its blockade. “We do not see ourselves, as the German federal government, opposing British considerations on other Eurofighter (sales),” Baerbock told journalists, as she underlined the Saudi role in the Middle East security crisis since the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7. Scholz “shares this assessment,” his spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said on Monday at a press conference, noting that “it is an open secret that Saudi Arabia’s airforce has used Eurofighters to shoot down rockets launched by the Huthis on the way to Israel”. Germany has blocked arms sales to Riyadh since the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That includes blocking a deal for 48 Eurofighter jets signed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in London. Baerbock noted that Saudi Arabia and Israel had “not renounced their policy of normalisation” since the war broke out. “The fact that Saudi Arabia is now intercepting missiles fired by the Huthis at Israel underlines this, and we are grateful for that,” she added. “The fact that the Saudi air force also uses Eurofighters in this context is an open secret,” the minister continued. “Saudi Arabia is a key contributor to Israel’s security, even these days, and is helping to stem the risk of a regional conflagration.” Germany’s previous position against deliveries to the kingdom had put itself at odds with key partners, with Airbus chief Guillaume Faury saying in November that it was “damaging to Germany’s reputation as an exporting nation”. “This raises the question of confidence and the credibility of Germany as a country participating in international programmes,” he added. Berlin’s U-turn, however, risks opening up a new political row domestically, with Baerbock’s Greens already uneasy about the move. Co-chair of the Greens, Ricarda Lang, on Monday insisted that “with a view on the human rights situation, including Saudi Arabia’s domestic constitution, I think as before that it is wrong to deliver Eurofighters” to the kingdom.

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