Austria calls for EU embargo on weapons deliveries to Saudi Arabia

Vienna (AFP) –


Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl called in an interview with a German newspaper Friday for an EU embargo on weapons deliveries to Saudi Arabia.

"Above all the awful war in Yemen and the Qatar crisis should lead us to finally act in a united fashion as the European Union towards Saudi Arabia," Kneissl told Die Welt.

"If we as the whole EU stopped weapons deliveries to Saudi Arabia, that could be a contribution towards ending this conflict," she said.

She added that Austria had not sent any military equipment to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the war in Yemen in March 2015.

She condemned the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as "deeply shocking" and an "unprecedented crime" but said it was only "the worst example of the "horrors" committed by the Saudi government.

The Austrian opposition accused the government of confusion in its policy after government MPs failed to support a motion in parliament on Thursday to ban weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

However, this was because the wording of that motion could have included small arms, whereas the government's position is to ban only exports of heavy weaponry for military use, foreign ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer told AFP.

Kneissl told Die Welt that in her opinion the past two years had seen a "massive deterioration in the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia", pointing to a large rise in the number of political prisoners.

She has cancelled a visit she was due to make to Saudi Arabia in December.

Responding to opposition calls to close down a Saudi-backed centre for inter-religious dialogue in Vienna, Kneissl said on Thursday that she had shown the centre a "dark yellow card".

She said that the KAICIID centre would have to implement reforms including decreasing its financial dependence on Riyadh.