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    Germany Hopes for Prompt Return of Saudi Envoy to Berlin as Diplomatic Row Ends

    © AFP 2018 / JOHN MACDOUGALL
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    Relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia have been frosty for months, with German companies frozen out by Riyadh, incensed by Berlin’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

    The German Foreign Ministry has announced that Berlin hopes that the Saudi ambassador will quickly return to Berlin, as Germany has settled a dispute with Saudi Arabia.

    This comes as Deutsche Welle wrote earlier in the day that Saudi Arabia had agreed to mend fences with Germany almost a year after Germany’s then-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel accused Riyadh of meddling in Lebanon's political affairs, setting off a diplomatic row between the two countries.

    READ MORE: Saudi Students File for Asylum in Canada Amid Diplomatic Impasse – Reports

    Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin regrets the "misunderstanding" that prompted Saudi Arabia to withdraw its ambassador in November 2017.

    "In recent months, our relations have witnessed a misunderstanding which stands in sharp contrast to our otherwise strong and strategic ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we sincerely regret this," Maas said when briefing reporters with his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir.

    Al-Jubeir said he welcomed Germany's statement and invited Maas to Saudi Arabia in order to strengthen ties between the two countries. Saudi Arabia's ambassador is expected to return to Berlin in the coming weeks.

    The diplomatic dispute between Berlin and Riyadh flared up in November 2017, when Sigmar Gabriel criticized Saudi Arabia for interfering in Lebanon’s domestic affairs and “adventurism" in the Middle East, which was seen by many as a thinly veiled attack on Saudi foreign policy in the region, above all in the Yemen conflict, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-aligned Houthis.

    Gabriel’s statements came at a time when Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri had just announced his resignation during a visit to Saudi Arabia that fueled suspicions that the decision could have been forced by Riyadh. 

    Saudi Arabia denied the charge and Hariri later revoked his resignation and returned to Lebanon.

    Angered by Gabriel's remarks, the Saudis withdrew their ambassador to Berlin and denied accreditation for Germany's ambassador. 

    READ MORE: Canada Calls for Germany's Support Amid Diplomatic Row With Saudi Arabia

    German exports to Saudi Arabia have dropped five percent since the kingdom imposed a de facto boycott on German goods. In May, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered that no more government contracts be awarded to German companies, in a sign of Riyadh’s continued irritation over Berlin’s policy in the Middle East. 

    German companies affected by the undeclared boycott include Daimler, Siemens, Boehringer and Deutsche Bank. As many as 800 German firms are believed to have an interest in public tenders and competitions in Saudi Arabia.

    With Chancellor Angela Merkel trying to smooth over the dispute by speaking, Berlin has reportedly authorized the supply of arms to Saudi Arabia while halting arms sales to other countries involved in the Yemen conflict.

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