Germany to resume arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia with IRIS-T missiles

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a part of IRIS-T SLM, an air defence system of German arms maker Diehl Defence, in Roethenbach near Nuremberg, Germany, September 11, 2023. REUTERS/Heiko Becker/File Photo © Thomson Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany has approved the delivery of 150 IRIS-T air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia, a government spokesperson said on Wednesday, resuming arms exports to the kingdom banned since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The deal was authorised by Germany’s federal security council in December, according to a document from the economy ministry seen by Reuters, confirming an earlier report by Spiegel news magazine.

The IRIS-T missiles, produced by German arms maker Diehl, are fired by Saudi Arabia’s Eurofighter jets.

The new batch which is yet to be delivered is meant to replenish Saudi stocks depleted over the past years, a security source said, adding the missiles had lately also been used to shoot down drones fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen.

In a major shift of policy, both Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said this week the government in Berlin would no longer stand in the way of British plans to sell additional Eurofighters to Riyadh.

The Eurofighter project is a joint British, German, Italian and Spanish effort.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, currently in Saudi Arabia to discuss energy and economic cooperation, said the country had an important role to play regarding stabilisation of the Middle East, including in light of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“Saudi Arabia is engaging in a such way that there is no escalation there,” Habeck said in comments broadcast by ntv.

“My perception is that Saudi Arabia is self-confident enough to know its role and wants to fulfil it,” he added.

In December, Baerbock strongly condemned attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea from Houthi-controlled Yemen and thanked Riyadh for helping thwart similar attacks by shooting down drones and missiles.

Germany had banned arms exports to the kingdom following Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Rachel More; Editing by Madeline Chambers, Alexandra Hudson