Ecumenical News International

Protestant Church Criticizes Arms Trade with Saudi Arabia

July 12, 2011

Berlin (epd). In view of the controversial deal to export tanks to Saudi-Arabia, foreign- policy expert Hans-Ulrich Klose has called for more information for the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) regarding future arms deals. "There should be a parliamentary body that the government would notify of such events," Klose told the "tageszeitung" newspaper. Nikolaus Schneider, Council Chair of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), criticized the arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Speaking as a member of the opposition Social Democratic party, Klose said that the proposed body could consist of representatives of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee: "That would take the heat out of the debate." At the same time, however, he advocated the continuing existence of the federal council for security affairs. This government body has hitherto decided on arms export deals in closed session.

The federal council for security affairs is said to have approved the delivery of 200 German Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia. However, this has not been officially confirmed to date, with reference to the obligation of official secrecy.

EKD Council Chair Schneider said that it was particularly disturbing that the tank deal amounted to a deviation from the political principle of not supplying German weapons to trouble spots. The Near and Middle East has been a crisis area for a long time, but the situation has become particularly precarious since the "Arab Spring", Schneider declared on in Hanover.

A further point of criticism by Schneider is the "very fragile and problematic human rights situation" in Saudi Arabia. He said that German tanks would quite possibly be used to crack down on unarmed demonstrators. The Saudi intervention in Bahrain showed the "fundamental readiness of the Saudi Arab rulers to use violence," declared the EKD Council Chair.

The Federal Government has been the object of criticism because of the arms deal for days. Green politician Christian Ströbele has threatened to appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court should the Federal Government continue to refuse to release any information.

The EKD Council Chair referred to the church's fundamental criticism of arms exports in its 2007 Peace Memorandum. That document had already issued a warning about arms exports as a possible threat to peace, he stated.



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