Saudi Arabia expects solution for stalled German gun exports

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 28, 2016 11:13 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will work with Germany to resolve a dispute over stalled exports of gun parts by arms maker Heckler & Koch, and the issue will not damage relations, a senior Saudi military official said on Wednesday.

A German court in June ordered the government to decide whether to allow Heckler & Koch to export parts to Saudi Arabia, after the company sued the government for dragging its feet for over two years in licensing the exports of parts needed to manufacture its G36 assault rifle in Saudi Arabia.

Germany had approved a lucrative licensing deal in 2008 allowing Saudi Arabia to produce the G36, but changed its approach in 2013 following media criticism of Saudi Arabia's use of the death penalty.

Exports have yet to resume, and Germany's Economy Ministry had no immediate comment on Wednesday on when a decision could be expected.

Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri told reporters during a visit to Germany that it was "not very acceptable" to change course after signing a contract, but he played down the seriousness of the issue.

"We will not make a case of this because the relationship with Germany is more valuable than a small contract regarding machine guns," al-Asseri said. "We will find a solution which satisfies both sides."

Saudi Arabia has defended its human rights record by saying its legal system is based on Islam, its judiciary is independent and it does not use torture.

Al-Asseri said Saudi Arabia buys few weapons from Germany, focusing mainly on rifles and machine guns. He said arms purchases were a way to strengthen alliances because they facilitated training and closer personal relationships.

The contract in question was "very minor," he said.

German Economy Ministry Sigmar Gabriel has said he remains critical of exports to Saudi Arabia and in February spoke out against approval of the license.

Heckler & Koch's G36 is standard issue for many armies around the globe and its HK416 assault rifle is said to have been used in the U.S. special forces operation to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)