March 29, 2019 / 3:58 PM / in a month

Germany favoring France in Saudi export ban: Funke report

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has created exceptions to its ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia to help its closest ally France, with whom it cooperates on many defense projects, the Funke newspaper group reported on Friday.

The German government has faced pressure from European allies over the arms sales ban it introduced after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The ban threw into question billions of euros worth of contracts signed by European consortiums that included German manufacturers.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition agreed late on Thursday to extend for another six months the ban on signing new arms deals, but offered some flexibility to keep afloat contracts already signed provided no actual deliveries took place.

According to the Funke report, exceptions for France went further. Citing government sources, it said French orders including German components worth over 400 million euros ($449.04 million) in total had been approved.

The orders included vehicle electronics, radar components, signal amplifiers and components for the Cobra artillery targeting system.

The German government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

France’s ambassador to Germany said earlier this week that growing numbers of manufacturers were seeking to go “German-free” because of Berlin’s unpredictable arms export policies and long wait times for export licenses.

Any sign of a preference for France would likely raise hackles in Britain, the continent’s other major arms exporter. Its BAE Systems has had a 10 billion pound ($12.99 billion) fighter jet order thrown into question by the ban.

Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October by a team of Saudi operatives.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Frances Kerry

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