“It must be cleared up. As long as it’s not cleared up, there will be no arms exports to Saudi Arabia. I assure you of that very decidedly,” Merkel said during a campaign rally in Ortenberg on Monday.
Her comment reiterates a statement made on Sunday, in which she said there is an “urgent need for clarification of exacty what happened” to Khashoggi and condemned his killing “in the strongest terms.”
Her comment about Germany refusing to sell arms to Riyadh while the issue remains unclear is significant, as the country approved weapons exports to Saudi Arabia worth €416.4 million this year, reportedly making Riyadh Germany’s second-best arms customer after Algeria.
Earlier on Monday, Germany urged other EU states to follow its example of ending arms exports to Saudi Arabia so long as uncertainty remains over what exactly happened to Khashoggi.
On Saturday, Germany – along with France and the European Union – demanded an in-depth investigation into what happened to the journalist.“The information available about events in the Istanbul consulate is inadequate,” Merkel said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
That remark came after Riyadh finally admitted on Saturday, after weeks of denials, that Khashoggi died during a “fistfight”inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. However, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News on Sunday that Riyadh doesn’t know how the journalist was killed or where his body is.
As Merkel halts arms exports to Riyadh amid the uncertainty, the US seems unlikely to do the same. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he hopes Washington can keep its $450 billion arms deal with Riyadh, citing the money and jobs it is bringing into the country and stating that there are other ways to “punish” the kingdom if it is guilty of the journalist’s death.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family, was last seen when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documents for his forthcoming marriage. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Ankara would reveal the full truth surrounding his death on Tuesday, after his country previously stated that the journalist was killed by a Saudi assassination squad.
Riyadh’s initial claim of Khashoggi dying in a fistfight has been met with criticism, including from US senators who believeSaudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the journalist to be killed.
Meanwhile, an unnamed Turkish official backed up the assassination squad claim earlier on Monday, telling CNN that one of the members of the 15-man squad was a man who looked like Khashoggi and left the consulate wearing his clothes moments after the killing.
Although the journalist’s death has prompted a wave of global backlash against Riyadh, the Gulf kingdom has said that its relationship with the US can weather the incident, and insists the killing won’t trigger a repeat of the 1973 oil embargo.