The German opposition parties have harshly criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government over lifting longtime restrictions of arms exports to the Middle East, as sales to the Persian Gulf soared last year.
Recent statistics from the country’s economics ministry revealed that military exports to the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC), including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, increased to USD 1.22 billion from USD 752.6 million in 2012.
“The worst human rights violations are apparently no longer a reason to deny the approval of arms exports," said defense spokesman for the German opposition Left Party Jan van Aken.
The opposition parties’ major concern is with the easing of restrictions, the exported weapons could be used by the absolute monarchies to crush anti-government protests, which are taking place among others in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain since beginning of 2011.
The decisive shift in the country’s export policy happened on June 27, 2011, when Merkel and Germany’s Federal Security Council approved, behind closed doors, the sale of 200 of its most advanced tanks, Leopard 2A7+, to Saudi Arabia.
It was the first time the administration decided to supply "heavy arms to an Arab government that has declared its intentions to fight its opponents 'with an iron fist,' a country that deployed tanks against demonstrators" in Bahrain, according to Der Spiegel
Other reported sales are a USD 2.8 billion deal with Algeria for two warships and Qatar is in the process of purchasing of 200 Leopards for USD 2.5 billion.
Analysts say Germany has increased its arm exports, as its defense industry has been hit by massive spending cuts due to the worsened European economy.