January 23, 2018 / 7:46 PM / 4 months ago

German arms exports fall by 9 percent in 2017 - ARD

BERLIN (Reuters) - German arms exports dropped by nine percent to 6.24 billion euros last year, ARD television reported on Tuesday, following a pledge by the co-governing Social Democrats (SPD) to restrict weapons sales to non-allied countries.

Germany is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, but weapons sales remain a domestically sensitive issue given the country’s World War Two history.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a former SPD leader, has promised more restrictive export licensing, especially of light arms.

Germany’s public broadcaster ARD cited figures from the SPD-led Economy Ministry that showed arms sales in 2017 were down nine percent from the 6.88 billion euros in the previous year.

Arms sales to so-called third countries, which are not members of the EU or the NATO, edged up to 3.8 billion euros in 2017 from 3.7 billion euros in the previous year.

In the full legislative period from 2014 to 2017, when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives governed with the SPD, overall arms sales rose by 45 percent to a record 24.9 billion euros, compared to the previous four years of the coalition of Merkel’s conservatives and the business-friendly Free Democrats.

Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD are expected to start coalition negotiations on Friday, in which a restriction of arms exports will also be discussed.

During exploratory talks earlier this month, both blocs agreed that they would stop arms exports to countries involved in the war in Yemen - a pledge seemingly targeted at Saudi Arabia, a major buyer of German arms.

Other significant buyers include Egypt, Israel and Algeria.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Thomas Seythal, Editing by William Maclean

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