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Balkan states mull halting arms sales to Saudis

Human rights campaigners protest against Farnborough International arms fair | Flickr

Both Croatia and Montenegro have said they are discussing the possibility of halting arms exports to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but neither has made a decision yet.

Other countries in the region have not expressed any official position since German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend that there should be no arms exports to Saudi Arabia while questions remain about the death of Khashoggi.

Prior to Merkel’s remarks, other leading German politicians called for a stop to arms exports to Saudi Arabia following Riyadh’s admission that the journalist was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry told BIRN that Zagreb is discussing that issue with its partners in the European Union.

The ministry cited a statement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on October 20 saying that the EU confirms its commitment to media freedom and the protection of journalists around the world.

In Montenegro, the government said it will also carefully consider suggestions from EU countries on what steps to take.

The Foreign Ministry in Podgorica told BIRN that in 2018, Montenegro did not export any arms to Saudi Arabia.

“The Foreign Ministry will be very responsive in the coming period to all obligations arising from international conventions, and respect the sanctions regime established within the United Nations and at the level of the European Union,” it said.

It also said that when making decisions on arms sales, the Montenegrin government fully adheres to UN regulations.
“Also, in the light of [EU] accession negotiations, Montenegro, although not a member, fully adheres to all EU positions related to third country policy in this area, including restrictions and sanctions,” the ministry added.

BIRN tried to reach the governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania asking about the plans for further arms export to Saudi Arabia but received no answers by the time of publication.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Merkel said her country will stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia while questions remain about Khashoggi, arguing that there is an “urgent need for further clarification” about his violent death on October 2.

But for now, other key EU members, and the US, seem reluctant to follow Berlin. On Sunday Spain said it is not freezing its arms sales to the Saudis. Neither France nor Britain have followed Germany’s move either.

Balkan countries earn large amounts of money from arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the past five years.

According to the official data, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia sold Saudi Arabia a total of over 118 million euros worth of weapons and ammunition in 2016.

The total value of arms exports from Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro to Saudi Arabia in 2016 amounted to 514.6 million euros.

Since 2012, exports to Saudi Arabia of weapons and ammunition worth at least 1.2 billion euros have been agreed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia Serbia, and Romania.

That is why Denis Avdagic, a security and military expert from Croatia, believes that Balkan states will not heed Germany’s call for a moratorium.

Balkan countries have been urged to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the past because of fears that the weapons end up on the battlefields of the Middle East.

The Full version of the article first published at Balkan Insight