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Niebel says arms sales 'compatible' with human rights
Photo: DPA

Niebel says arms sales 'compatible' with human rights

Published: 20 Jul 2011 14:10 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Jul 2011 14:10 GMT+02:00

Development Minister Dirk Niebel has waded into the controversy surrounding a deal to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia, saying German weapons exports can be compatible with human rights by stabilizing an entire region.

In an interview with the weekly Die Zeit newspaper, Niebel said he could not comment on specifically on reports that the government intends to sell Leopard 2 battle tanks to the Middle Eastern Kingdom, but said Berlin would not make such a decision lightly.

“Generally the government considers all necessary aspects when making such decisions – including the political situation of the entire region. Germany has a high standing there,” he said.

And when asked whether such a trade would be consistent with his ministry’s position on human rights, he said, “The stabilisation of a region contributes to the defence of human rights – perhaps not in the country in which one is active, but in the neighbouring countries.”

When the interviewers asked whether this also included military goods, he said, “It is not always as simple as it seems. Remember the Cold War. Military deterrence contributed to the fact that war did not happen.”

Yet more transparency in Germany’s arms export policies would be extremely welcome, enabling parliamentarians to have a say in strategy, said Roderich Kiesewetter, an arms expert from the Christian Democratic Union who chairs the parliamentary committee on disarmament and arms control.

In a separate interview with Die Zeit he said, “It would be helpful if we in the committee were informed timely, and not only one-and-a-years later, when the arms export report is presented.”

He called for a national security strategy to be developed, and for it to be discussed annually in parliament.

This would determine to which countries arms could be exported, he said. “Economic policy interests are important but they are not decisive,” he said, calling for the government to withstand the tension between values and economic interests in determining foreign policy.

Turning to other issues in the interview, Niebel also defended what seemed like a paltry German donation of €6 million emergency aid sent to the famine-stricken Horn of Africa region – a tenth of what Britain has sent.

He said longer-term projects in the region were already up and running, with for example €138 million available over three years for agricultural support in Kenya.

When asked about his initial comments on taking over the ministry – that he wanted to abolish it – Niebel said he had radically changed the way it worked, and that development issues affected all governmental areas – education, health, environment, security and economy. It was time to pull development out of what he said had been a soft niche.

He also defended the €113.8 million increase in his budget for 2012, way below the €1.2 billion which a group of 360 MPs had demanded be the development ministry increase. Niebel said the fact that his budget had gone up at all in such austere times was a clear political signal from the government.

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Your comments about this article

18:32 July 20, 2011 by ChrisRea
"German weapons exports can be compatible with human rights by stabilizing an entire region"

So if you stabilize a government which breaks human rights, then this operation can be compatible with human rights? What type of logic is this?
20:44 July 20, 2011 by Joseph Thomas
If another free country is exporting weapons to a region, then it "might" destabilize that region. But if it's MY country making profit over exports to a region, then it's sure to have a stabilizing effect!
07:18 July 21, 2011 by tamakela
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
08:18 July 21, 2011 by Englishted
@tamakela

What ever you think of the article,your last statement is a completely untrue generalization and if you lived here you would know ,please don't be so ignorant .
12:47 July 21, 2011 by Krim
Controlling weapons exports is a global problem and should be solved on a global level. If Germany decide not to sell, another country will........

Russia, China ........

Niebel is talking non sense. The government of Saudi Arabia and human rights is a long sad story....The difference between the Whahhabites in Saudia Arabia and the Taliban in Afghanistan is about money and oil . The brains are shaped the same way...
09:29 July 24, 2011 by Sastry.M
If Herr Niebel admits that WMDs (Waffen der Massen Vernichtung) really scared his western allies and their declared war has destabilized Arabian Peninsula he do well by resorting to diplomacy by allaying the Arabian fears and win contracts for sale of safer products to beget better dividends.
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