Does Germany No Longer Care About Saudi Arabia's War Crimes In Yemen?

Germany just ended its diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia still has not ended its bombing campaign in Yemen.

In November 2017, Germany and Saudi Arabia engaged in a diplomatic spat after Sigmar Gabriel, German foreign minister at the time called out "adventurism" in the Middle East.

The comments, especially by Saudi Arabia, were widely seen as a jab at Saudi interference in Lebanon's state affairs as well as the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed since 2015.

In response to Gabriel's comments, Riyadh recalled its ambassador  and also ordered a freeze on new government contracts being awarded to German companies.

In January, Germany even announced it would ban the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other parties involved in the Yemen conflict.

So, the situation was like this: Saudi Arabia tried to confront Germany for daring to criticize its human rights abuses and Germany responded by showing it would commit itself to not becoming any part of it.

On the human rights front, it appeared Germany took a step in the right direction, right?

That's not the case anymore.

Almost a year after the row began, Berlin and Riyadh have agreed to end their prolonged diplomatic row at the United Nations.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir  stood alongside each other at the U.N. and spoke about "misunderstandings" that created differences between the two countries.

"We should have been clearer in our communication and engagement in order to avoid such misunderstandings between Germany and the kingdom," Maas said. "We'll do our best to make this partnership with the kingdom even stronger than before."

The diplomatic thaw was marked with a Germany approved a delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia, a government document showed on Wednesday, after saying it would halt arms sales to countries involved in the war in Yemen.

Given the severity of the previous row, one wonders what might have triggered the shift in Berlin's stance, so much so that Maas' reconciliatory statement almost sounded like an apology.

Did Saudi Arabia stop interfering in Lebanon' state affairs?

Did Saudi Arabia stop bombing civilians in Yemen?

The answer to both the questions is, "No."

While Riyadh might not be overtly meddling in Lebanon's state affairs, pro-Saudi Saad Hariri remains the Lebanese prime minister.

As for the Yemen war, it's appalling that Germany would want to not only resume diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, but also its sales of weapons, after Saudi Arabia killed over 80 people in just the first three weeks of August.

Of the 80 people killed at least 66 were children.

On Aug. 9, a Saudi-led coalition warplane bombed a school bus in Saada, killing 40 children and 11 adults.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates even admitted the attack was "unjustified."

However, on Aug. 23, another Saudi-led coalition attack killed at least 26 children and four women in two separate attacks.

The fighting has killed or injured over 16,000 civilians and more than 22 million are in need of humanitarian aid. Of them eight million people are teetering on the brink of famine, 500,000 of them are children who are fighting for their lives. The U.N. ranks Yemen as the world’s “largest humanitarian operation.

Despite the grim consequences, the architect of the war, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in three years, has not even once acknowledged the ever-increasing loss of human life.

So, what happened?

What changed?

A possible reason for reconciliation appears to be trade (read: money).

The diplomatic tensions dealt a heavy blow to trade between the two countries, with the pharmaceutical sector suffering the most.

Reuters reports: "With a growing burden of chronic diseases tied to a more Western lifestyle, Saudi Arabia's overall drugs market is growing at 10 percent a year and the tender sector is expanding by about 30 percent."

"German exports to Saudi Arabia reportedly fell 5 percent in the first half of 2018. They totalled 6.6 billion euros in 2017, with an estimated 15 percent coming from the healthcare sector."

The industry reportedly pressurized Maas to work on mending ties with Saudi Arabia. He then did just that for nearly a year and his efforts were rewarded at the U.N.

The loser of the entire fiasco turned out to be Yemen.

While it seemed for a while at least one world power showed an inclination towards taking a stand for millions suffering at the hands of Riyadh, it was all a farce.

The spat may have ended.

The war has not.

Banner/thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Thomas Peter & REUTERS/Costas Baltas

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