Germany's SPD ready to allow some arms exports to Saudis: RND newspapers

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s junior coalition party is prepared to allow some arms exports to Saudi Arabia, a softening of its position which may defuse a row with its conservative partners in power, RND media reported on Wednesday.

Such a move by the Social Democrats (SPD) would also ease concerns in Britain and France that Germany’s current ban on arms exports to the kingdom, imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, may threaten joint tank, combat jet and drone development.

Citing government sources, the RND group of newspapers reported that Germany’s security council would decide whether to extend the ban, due to expire at the end of March, on Wednesday.

The discussion would include what to do about joint European arms projects that have been approved but can no longer be delivered due to the moratorium.

RND said it had information showing the SPD was prepared to pull back from a blanket ban and allow such joint projects to go ahead, provided that no more than 20 percent of the components involved came from Germany.

Some in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are pushing for a higher proportion of German components, it reported.

The council will also discuss the assessment of the situation in Yemen because in their coalition deal, the parties had agreed not to deliver arms to countries that are involved in the conflict there. That includes Saudi Arabia.

Last week the SPD said it wanted to extend the freeze but many conservatives argue a continued ban hurts Germany’s commercial reputation and could jeopardize projects such as the development of a Franco-German combat jet and other arms deals.

The freeze has also put a question mark over billions of euros of military orders, including a 10 billion pound ($13.2 billion) deal to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Riyadh that would be led by Britain’s BAE Systems.

($1 = 0.7577 pounds)

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Andrew Heavens