British minister demands Germany lifts block on Saudi arms sales

The first Austrian military jet fighter "Eurofighter Typhoon" lands on the military airport in the small Styrian village of Zeltweg July 12, 2007. (Reuters)
Updated 19 February 2019
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British minister demands Germany lifts block on Saudi arms sales

  • Jeremy Hunt says Berlin’s halt in arms sales to KSA will hit UK defense industry
  • Requests major European defense projects like the Eurofighter be removed from embargo

LONDON: Britain’s top diplomat has demanded that Germany lifts its effective block on major European arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying the move stands to hurt the UK’s defense industry.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to Heiko Maas, his German counterpart, requesting that Berlin exclude the likes of the Euroflighter Typhoon and the Tornado fighter jet from its embargo.

Parts of those jets are made in Germany, meaning that their sale to Saudi Arabia is essentially blocked even though the deals might be struck by defense companies headquartered elsewhere.

Hunt expressed concern about the effect of Germany’s halt in exports to Saudi Arabia on both the British and wider European defense industry, Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday.

“I am very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defense industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfil its NATO commitments,” Hunt wrote in the letter to Maas, according to Der Spiegel.

“It is imperative that you immediately remove major European defense projects such as the Eurofighter and the Tornado from the arms embargo,” he wrote in the letter dated Feb. 7. Otherwise, Berlin risks “a loss of confidence in the credibility of Germany as a partner.”

Hunt said British defense firms would not be able to fulfil several contracts with Saudi Arabia such as the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four founding countries — Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain — and is represented by France’s Airbus, Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo.

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which Hunt heads, declined to comment on the letter, although said the UK takes criteria for arms exports seriously.

“We will not comment on the contents of a private letter. The UK’s priority is to find a sustainable political solution to the Yemen conflict, which is at a critical juncture. We continue to play a leading role in diplomatic efforts, supporting the UN to bring together key Yemeni and international actors to deliver a peaceful solution,” the spokesperson told Arab News.

“The UK is committed to a strong and collaborative European defence industry. We take our arms export licensing responsibilities very seriously and all export licence applications for Saudi Arabia are assessed rigorously against UK and EU Arms Export Licencing Criteria.”

An official from Airbus last week said Germany’s halt in exports to Saudi Arabia is preventing Britain from completing the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoons to Riyadh, and has delayed potential sales of other weapons.

Airbus Defense and Space chief Dirk Hoke told Reuters that uncertainty about the issue had undermined Germany’s credibility, and could threaten future Franco-German defense projects.

“This is a serious problem,” Hoke was reported as saying. “We’re facing constraints in many projects, and many problems have been put on ice.”

Germany imposed the embargo in November, saying it would reject future export licenses to Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals, which would entitle companies to compensation, but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now, Reuters reported.


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 21 May 2019
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.