German arms manufacturer may sue Berlin over halt in arms sales to Saudi Arabia
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German arms manufacturer may sue Berlin over halt in arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Citing a letter to the Economy Ministry, German-language news website Spiegel Online said Sunday that Rheinmetall AG — one of Germany’s largest military contractors — plans to file a claim for compensation against Berlin if the suspension is upheld. The corporation wrote to the ministry that it considered itself eligible for restitution as the government’s decision affected already approved exports worth up to 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion). The company’s management was said to be concerned that its own shareholders could sue Rheinmetall if the company failed to demand compensation for the loss of revenue. Chancellor Merkel announced back in October 2018 that Berlin would stop exporting weapons to Riyadh “under current circumstances” surrounding the gruesome murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul earlier that month. Merkel called Khashoggi’s murder an “atrocity” that “had to be clarified,” calling on fellow European governments to follow suit and suspend arms sales to Riyadh. The German Economy Ministry said last week that the government had still no plan to approve arms sales to the kingdom. No other arms manufacturer has so far expressed with the ban. Last week, the CNN, citing figures from the German Economy Ministry, said Berlin saw its arms exports fall by close to 23 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. The report quoted an official with the ministry as saying that Merkel’s ban was a reason for the sharp decline. Before the halt, Germany — one of the world’s five biggest arms exporters — had approved arms exports worth 416.4 million euros ($475.7 million) to Saudi Arabia in 2018 alone. This had happened despite calls from rights groups for Berlin to halt arms supplies to the regime, which stands accused of committing war crimes in Yemen. Besides Germany, Norway and Spain also banned weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince and defense chief Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have ordered Khashoggi’s murder. Riyadh’s other Western arms suppliers, including France and Canada, have, however, refused to stop their weapons sales for fear of financial losses.

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