Middle East

German MPs lash out at Foreign Minister’s plans to attend Saudi Arabia festival

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

German MPs lashed out at the country’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier over his plans to attend a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia, according to the German newspaper Die Welt.

A decision by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to attend a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia infuriated German lawmakers, the Die Welt newspaper reported. The festival is due to take place in Janadriyah, about 42 km northeast of the capital Riyadh, in February.

Among those who expressed their dissatisfaction with the move was Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

In light of the mass executions in Saudi Arabia, I believe that [the German FM] taking part in the Janadriyah Festival is irrelevant,” Rottgen said.

Rottgen’s remarks were echoed by Armin Laschet, Deputy Chairman of the German Christian Democratic Union, who also warned Frank-Walter Steinmeier against visiting Saudi Arabia.

In light of the recent mass killings and gross human rights violations, the German Foreign Minister should refrain from marking a joyous festival in the desert together with Riyadh authorities,” Laschet said.

He added that Daesh militants would have failed to strengthen their position in Syria but for Saudi Arabia’s support.

Other politicians from Germany’s ruling coalition abstained from directly criticizing Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, but stressed the necessity of Germany reviewing its policy on Saudi Arabia, according to the Die Welt.

Also voicing his anger over the German FM’s plans to attend the Janadriyah Festival was Dietmar Bartsch, executive director of the German left-wing party Die Linke, who said that “the German Foreign Minister going to Saudi Arabia in the current situation is unacceptable.”

“The kingdom absolutely irresponsibly escalates what is already a tense situation in the region. The rejection of this trip would the right signal,” he said.

The German Foreign Ministry made no comment on the uproar, but the German ambassador in Riyadh confirmed in December 2015 that Frank-Walter Steinmeier is due to visit the Janadriyah Festival near Riyadh, where the German pavilion will for the first time be on display this year.

The execution of 47 people in Saudi Arabia, among them Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, sparked a round of furious protests by Shia political and religious leaders culminating in an attack on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran. This protest action finally resulted in the break-off of diplomatic relations between Iran and a number of countries.

The regime in Saudi Arabia has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations.

Saudi Arabia has been compared to DAESH in long time now, especially for their support of terrorist organizations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Hashtags #SueMeSaudi and #SaudiArabiaIsISIS has many hits every minute, and many want to mark their opposition and to show their distance to the brutal dictator regime in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia practice Wahhabism ideology, a strictly fundamentalist orientation within Sunni Islam, which in practice is the state religion in the country. It is also ideology direction that has inspired al-Qaida and DAESH.

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