October 23, 2018 / 4:09 PM / a month ago

France's Macron evades questions on halting Saudi arms sales

Still images taken from two different CCTV videos and obtained by Turkish security sources claim to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as he arrives at Saudi Arabia's Consulate and another man allegedly wearing Khashoggi's clothes while walking in Istanbul, Turkey October 2, 2018. Reuters TV/via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday refused to take questions about halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite Germany’s calls on its European partners to follow its example and stop arms exports to the kingdom.

Journalists asked Macron during a visit to a naval defense show whether France would follow Germany in halting weapons sales to Riyadh after it admitted to the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate.

“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,” he told reporters, visibly irritated.

“It’s not because one leader says something that I must react to it every time. So I won’t answer that,” he added, after a journalist asked a follow-up question.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called the killing of Khashoggi a “monstrosity” and vowed to halt all German arms exports to Riyadh until the case is cleared up.

Her economy minister, Peter Altmaier, called on other European Union member states to follow its example in stopping arms exports to Saudi Arabia to increase pressure on Riyadh over the death of Khashoggi which has caused an international outcry.

Macron has sought to play down the importance of trade relations with Riyadh, saying that Saudi Arabia was not a major client of France.

However, from 2008-17 it was the second-biggest purchaser of French arms, with deals totaling more than 11 billion euros ($12.6 billion) for tanks, armored vehicles, munitions, artillery.

($1 = 0.8711 euros)

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Geert De Clercq, Richard Balmforth

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