French President Emmanuel Macron retreated after journalists asked him whether France would follow Germany’s lead in discontinuing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia after it acknowledged the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, reports France 24.
“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,” a visibly agitated Macron told reporters, adding: “It’s not because one leader says something that I must react to it every time. So I won’t answer that.”
On Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel lashed out at Riyadh, calling Khashoggi’s murder a “monstrosity,” while vowing to halt all German arms sales to the house of Saud until the situation is rectified.
Macron previously sought to downplay French arms exports to the Saudis, claiming that they are not a major customer of France. As France24 notes, however, the Saudis were the second largest buyer of French arms from 2008 – 2017, with over 11 billion Euros (US $12.6 billion) spent on munitions, artillery, armored vehicles and tanks.
Trudeau doesn’t like the early cancellation fee…
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government isn’t likely to cancel a large 2014 contract with Saudi Arabia for armored personnel carriers – blaming the previous administration for including a giant cancellation fee.
“There was a contract signed by the previous (Tory) government that makes it extremely difficult for us to withdraw from that contract without Canadians paying exorbitant penalties,” said Trudeau, who added “We are looking at our options.”
Both the United States and Great Britain – the first and second largest arms exporters to the Saudis – have been delicately dancing around the Khashoggi case.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that the killing of the journalist was “terrible” but that London would maintain its close relationship with Riyadh, which buys hundreds of millions of pounds in weapons from Britain each year.
Highlighting that a “huge number of British jobs” depend on London’s ties with Riyadh, he argued that British influence is best maintained by continuing to talk to the Saudis.
“We have got one of the most rigorous export regimes in the world which makes sure arms are very carefully monitored,” Raab added.
President Trump, meanwhile, has suggested it would be a bad idea to scrap a multibillion-dollar US-Saudi arms deal.