May. 8, 2013 Defense news (AFP)
BERLIN — Germany has agreed to sell 164 used tanks to Indonesia, the government confirmed Wednesday, after the Dutch parliament last year rejected a similar request over human rights concerns.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has given the green light to Duesseldorf-based weapons maker Rheinmetall AG to sell the tanks to Jakarta, said an economics ministry spokeswoman.
She said the total price tag was about €3.3 million ($4.3 million), suggesting that the more than 100 Leopard 2 battle tanks and other tracked vehicles are second-hand military equipment.
Merkel’s national security council decides on arms export licenses in closed meetings and usually stays tight-lipped about them until details are released in annual defense export reports.
But the government was forced to release information about the Indonesia deal after a formal request by opposition Greens party lawmaker Katja Keul, who published the response on her website.
The shipment includes 104 Leopard 2 tanks and 50 Marder 1A2s infantry fighting vehicles, as well as ammunition. Among the 10 other tanks are vehicles used in mountain terrain, mobile bridge layers and armored earth movers.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and the world’s most populous Muslim majority country, had first requested the tanks in 2012 during a visit by Merkel, pledging not to use them against its own people.
Opposition parties in Indonesia’s former colonial power the Netherlands had stopped a proposed tank deal with the country, citing the risk Jakarta would use them to suppress ethnic and religious minorities.
Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday defended the export and called Indonesia an “important partner country” that had received German defense goods before.
“Indonesia has, in the view of the German government, since about 1998 undergone a deep political change toward a democratic political system,” he said. “The reform efforts of the Indonesian government are continuing.”
He recalled that Merkel had, during a March visit to Berlin by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, praised his archipelago nation as a “role model” for religious diversity.
The Merkel government has promoted weapons sales to countries it considers strategic partners and also recently approved controversial arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.