German defence minister seeks training deal in Saudi

 08 Dec 2016 - 18:33

German defence minister seeks training deal in Saudi
Ursula von der Leyen held talks with her Saudi counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on boosting the "excellent bilateral relations" between the two countries.

AFP

Riyadh:  Germany's defence minister was in Saudi Arabia on Thursday aiming to conclude a training deal for Saudi military officers, the embassy said.

Ursula von der Leyen held talks with her Saudi counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on boosting the "excellent bilateral relations" between the two countries, the mission added.

"In addition to that, the visit aims to finalise the talks on enhanced cooperation in the training sector. Beginning from next year, the German Defence College will host several young officers and staff from the Saudi military," the embassy said in a statement.

Von der Leyen is the latest German official to visit Saudi Arabia this year, reflecting "a period of intensified exchange" between the two states, ambassador Dieter Haller said.

The defence minister, who leaves the kingdom on Friday, belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, which governs in coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD chief who is also vice-chancellor, in January warned that Berlin could review military exports to Saudi Arabia.

The caution followed the mass execution in Saudi Arabia of 47 people convicted of terrorism, including Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Germany has refrained from selling the Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle and other offensive military weapons to Saudi Arabia but has shipped millions of euros worth of so-called defensive military gear.

Exports last year included patrol boats, all-terrain vehicles, aerial refuelling equipment, drones and parts for combat aircraft and armoured vehicles, according to the German news agency DPA.

Saudi Arabia is the world's third-biggest defence spender.