Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:56AM
Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attends a summit in Manama, Bahrain, December 9, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attends a summit in Manama, Bahrain, December 9, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The German opposition has slammed government plans to offer training to Saudi Arabian military forces, equating such aid with sponsorship of terrorism.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen discussed “cooperation in the training sector” with her Saudi counterpart, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh on Thursday, according to the Germany Embassy in the Saudi capital.

“Beginning from next year, the German Defense College will host several young officers and staff from the Saudi military,” the diplomatic mission said.

Germany’s Left Party and the Greens called the prospect into serious question by pointing to Saudi Arabia’s deadly war on Yemen.

Sevim Dagdelen, the spokesman for the Left Party, said, “Saudi Arabia leads a brutal war in Yemen and is among the most important supporters” of extremists in Syria.

“The terrorist aid from Germany must finally be stopped,” he said.

Omid Nouripour, a foreign policy spokesman for the Greens, also said, “We must prevent the Saudis from bombing the civilian infrastructure in the country (Yemen).”

“There are 370,000 seriously under-nourished children in Yemen due to the consequences of the [Saudi] war,” he said.

Udai Faisal, an infant suffering from acute malnutrition, is hospitalized at al-Sabeen Hospital in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, March 22, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Saudi Arabia started the war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall Yemen’s former government headed by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a dedicated Riyadh ally who has resigned. The offensive has killed thousands and displaced millions across the impoverished country.

During her meeting with the Saudi defense minister, Leyen, the German defense chief, described German-Saudi relations as “excellent” and called Riyadh Germany’s “central partner in the region.”

‘Sacrificing human rights on the altar of arms trade’

The United States and the United Kingdom are among the other Western countries that have been awarding Saudi Arabia substantive arms deals and providing advisory support for its war on Yemen.

The US approved more than $20 billion in military sales to Riyadh in 2015 alone.

On Thursday, the Pentagon gave the go-ahead for the sale of $7 billion worth of military aircraft and missiles to four Arab states, the bulk of which is to head to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with Saudi King Salman during a visit to the Persian Gulf this week, assuring him of “her commitment and that of her government to enhancing and strengthening this relationship,” according to May’s official spokeswoman.

The leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is to speak at the parliament on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day on Saturday, when he will accuse May of sacrificing human rights “on the altar of the arms trade,” advance excerpts of the speech have shown.

“This week, the Prime Minister chose to travel to the [Persian] Gulf to hold talks on security and negotiate arms sales to the dictatorial regimes of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain,” he will say.

Corbyn will also accuse Saudi Arabia of “committing what have all the hallmarks of crimes against humanity in its war in Yemen.”

“Saudi-led coalition bombing backed by the British government and UK military advisers has left thousands dead, 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and three million refugees uprooted from their homes,” he is to say.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, since the start of the campaign in Yemen, with direct military support from the US and assistance from the UK, the Saudi forces have conducted at least 58 “unlawful airstrikes,” with other human rights organizations and the UN having documented dozens more.