October 23, 2018 / 4:15 PM / a month ago

France's Macron evades questions on halting Saudi arms sales

A still image taken from CCTV video and obtained by TRT World claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, highlighted in a red circle by the source, as he arrives at Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 2, 2018. Courtesy TRT World/Handout via Reuters REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. TURKEY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN TURKEY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday refused to take questions about halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite Germany’s calls on its European partners to follow its example and stop arms exports to the kingdom.

Journalists asked Macron during a visit to a naval defence show whether France would follow Germany in halting weapons sales to Riyadh after it admitted to the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate.

“This has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. Nothing. So I won’t answer that question. I’m sorry but as long as I’ll be in office this is how it will be, whether people like it or not,” he told reporters, visibly irritated.

“It’s not because one leader says something that I must react to it every time. So I won’t answer that,” he added, after a journalist asked a follow-up question.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called the killing of Khashoggi a “monstrosity” and vowed to halt all German arms exports to Riyadh until the case is cleared up.

Her economy minister, Peter Altmaier, called on other European Union member states to follow its example in stopping arms exports to Saudi Arabia to increase pressure on Riyadh over the death of Khashoggi which has caused an international outcry.

Macron has sought to play down the importance of trade relations with Riyadh, saying that Saudi Arabia was not a major client of France.

However, from 2008-17 it was the second-biggest purchaser of French arms, with deals totalling more than 11 billion euros ($12.6 billion) for tanks, armoured vehicles, munitions, artillery.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Geert De Clercq, Richard Balmforth

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