The US continued to supply the bulk of arms, exporting 88 percent of all arms sold to Saudi Arabia in 2018.
Saudi Arabia has criticised Germany’s arms export ban on the Gulf kingdom as “wrong” and “illogical” and said it does not need German military equipment.
Some European nations have halted weapons sales to Riyadh after it launched a military campaign in 2015 in neighbouring Yemen, which the United Nations now calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“The idea that weapon sales were stopped to Saudi Arabia because of the Yemen war I think is illogical,” said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir.
“We think it’s wrong because we think the war in Yemen is a legitimate war. It’s a war that we were forced into it,” he told the German press agency dpa.
After being extended multiple times, Germany’s ban on arms exports will once again be up for discussion in the coming weeks as the latest deadline, December 31, draws closer.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition agreed in March 2018 to prevent arms from being delivered to any country directly involved in the war in Yemen.
Before the ban, Germany did brisk business with the kingdom with an export volume of 450m euros ($550m) in the third fiscal quarter of 2017, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Saudi Arabia has been at war in Yemen since March 2015, when a coalition led by the oil-rich kingdom launched a campaign of aerial bombardment aimed at countering the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and reinstating the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“We can buy weapons from a number of countries, and we do so. Saying we’re not going to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia doesn’t make a difference to us,” said al-Jubeir.
He also emphasised that Saudi Arabia did not want to put Germany under pressure over the matter. “I am just saying people need to look at this from a balanced perspective.”
Saudi Arabia was the world’s top arms importer, spending $16.9bn on weapons in the period between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a defence think-tank.
At least $4.9bn of that was spent on European arms.
Rights groups have criticised the Saudi-led coalition for air raids that have killed civilians at hospitals, schools and markets, and urged Western governments to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the stalemated conflict.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the war, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data – including 12,000 civilians.
According to the UN’s World Food Programme, 24 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, while 20 million are food-insecure.