February 23, 2019 / 11:27 PM / 24 days ago

France calls on Germany to ease arms export rules

FILE PHOTO: French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire arrives for the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF - Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France) on February 20, 2019, at the Louvre Carrousel in Paris. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday that Germany should ease its strict arms export rules for countries outside the European Union to strengthen the defence industry.

France has complained that joint arms manufacturing projects are being stalled by Berlin’s refusal to authorise future arms export licences to Saudi Arabia, a major buyer.

Germany said in November it would reject future arms export licences to Riyadh over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now.

“It is useless to produce weapons through improved cooperation between France and Germany if we are unable to export them,” Le Maire told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“If you want to be competitive and efficient, we need to be able to export to countries outside Europe,” Le Maire said.

The minister said France also had relatively strict rules for arms exports. “Our hope is that we will come to an agreement with Germany in this crucial point,” Le Maire said.

Germany and France are working on a joint proposal for arms export guidelines to non-European countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in January the EU must deepen cooperation in defence and in particular weapons systems development, warning Germans that they may need to make compromises on strict export controls.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Edmund Blair

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