France, Germany aim to unify their clashing weapons-export rules

COLOGNE, Germany — The German Cabinet has approved a new, high-level pact with France that calls for a common approach to weapons exports in all joint programs.

The objective is included in the so-called Aachener Vertrag, slated to be signed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the German city of Aachen on Jan. 22. The document is meant to be a milestone agreement complementary of the Élysée Treaty, signed 56 years ago, further cementing ties on all levels between the former World War II foes.

Berlin and France previously clashed over the question of export limitations for the Future Combat Air System, a sixth-generation warplane envisioned to take flight sometime around 2040, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported last fall. France generally is open to exporting arms to many governments willing to pay for them. German leaders profess to take a more cautious approach when human rights concerns crop up, though the government has a history of making arms deals through the back door anyway. The different philosophies came to a head following the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2, which some have alleged was orchestrated by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi ruling family has denied the allegations, buoyed by the Trump administration’s decision to play down the matter.

The allegations led Merkel to publicly call for halting weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, a move that drew a sharp rebuke from Paris, where officials fumed about what they perceived as German sanctimoniousness.

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