German politicians urge Steinmeier to reconsider visit to S Arabia

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A planned visit by Germany’s foreign minister to a Saudi cultural festival has not gone down well with German politicians, who say the blood on the kingdom’s hands is yet to dry.

Last December, the German diplomatic mission to Riyadh said the country’s top diplomat Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to visit the annual Janadriyah event near the Saudi capital in the upcoming year. German companies like Volkswagen as well as the country’s Baden-Wuerttemberg state are to attend the German pavilion, which is to represent Berlin at the event.

The visit to the kingdom, which serves as an important business partner to Berlin, is to take place amid ongoing international backlash against Riyadh’s January 2 execution alongside 46 others of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was a vocal critic of Riyadh’s policies.

Reacting to the planned trip, Norbert Röttgen, a politician with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said, “Given the mass executions, I consider participating in a cultural festival to be inappropriate,” German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported.

Armin Laschet, a CDU deputy chairman, said in the light of the executions and “blatant violations of human rights in the last few days, it is inappropriate for the German minister to celebrate with the regime in Riyadh in the funny desert festivals.”

Omid Nouripour, a Green Party spokesman, said, “It would be wrong even to reward the kingdom for the mass executions with the delusion of the normality of a cultural festival.”

The execution has escalated already bubbling tensions in the region, threatening to derail underway peace efforts.

A portrait of late prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is seen hanging on an electricity pole in the Lebanese capital Beirut on January 7, 2016 (AFP photo).

On the same day as the implementation of the death sentence, a German Foreign Ministry official condemned the move, saying it deepened worries about the region.

Also in December, the country’s BND foreign intelligence agency warned about a shift by Saudi Arabia to the “impulsive policy of intervention” in other countries, saying that Riyadh was ready to take military, political, and financial risks to ensure its influence in the region.

The warning was followed by German Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel saying Berlin would no more ‘look the other way’ as Saudi Arabia continues to nurture terrorism throughout the world.

“From Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi mosques are financed throughout the world,” he said, adding that in Germany, many people “considered dangerous persons emerge from these communities.”

Takfirism, or the practice of accusing others of being “infidels,” is a characteristic of Wahhabism, the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia and freely preached by clerics in the Arab country.

Echoing Gabriel’s remarks, Laschet pointed to Riyadh’s ideological and financial patronage for the Takfiri terrorist group of Daesh — which is sowing death and destruction mainly in Syria and Iraq, saying the group “could spread only by Saudi support in Syria.”

 

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