“The ban will be extended for a further six months to September 30. Over this period, no new export applications will be approved,” Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement on Thursday.
The decision on whether to extend the ban was a contentious one. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) wanted to soften the stance on Saudi Arabia, while its coalition ally, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), stood firmly behind the current ban, Deutsche Weller reported.
Berlin introduced a ban on arms sales to the kingdom last November in response to the brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Amid the fallout from the murder and concerns over the Saudi role in the Yemen bombing campaign, Germany imposed an embargo on future arms deals with the Gulf kingdom, halting existing weapons deliveries.
The embargo was initially supposed to expire on March 9, but was extended up until the end of the month.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated in early March that the decision was made in connection to developments in Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition has caused mass civilian casualties and has faced accusations of carrying out indiscriminate bombings that amount to war crimes.
It was reported in December that the death toll from the Yemeni bloodshed had surpassed 60,000 people.
Apart from causing internal strife, the embargo has also strained relations between Berlin and two other European powerhouses, the UK and France. Both London and Paris admonished the German government for not lifting the ban, since it precludes the sales of their own weapons to Riyadh that are manufactured using German-made components covered by the Berlin ban.
While the US, which is Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms supplier, France and the UK decided to proceed with the sales, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland joined the ban, suspending their export licenses for the oil-rich kingdom.