Macron says any Khashoggi sanctions should be at 'European level'


French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said that any sanctions against Saudi Arabia in response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be at the "European level" and "not limited to this or that sector".

The French leader was referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision this week to halt all arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which led to a rare dispute between the close European allies after Macron suggested Berlin was engaging in "pure demagoguery".

However the two leaders had a "relaxed exchange" on the sidelines of a Syria summit in Istanbul on Saturday, Macron's office said, and agreed not to announce their next positions on the issue without first coordinating "at the European level".

Macron on Friday insisted there was no moral link to be made between Khashoggi's death at the beginning of this month and Saudi Arabia's purchase of French-made weapons.

"What is the link between arms sales and Mr. Khashoggi?" he said, calling it "pure demagoguery to call for a halt" to exports over the dissident's killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The remark was interpreted as a rare veiled criticism of Merkel, who had earlier said "we need to clarify the background of this horrible crime and until that, we will not supply weapons to Saudi Arabia".

Macron said that sales of weapons to Riyadh -- France's second biggest customer after India -- have "nothing to do with Mr Khashoggi. One shouldn't mix everything up".

He added that if Saudi Arabia is to be sanctioned, "we must do so across the board".

"In that case, we should stop selling cars," he told reporters -- another possible dig at Germany, a massive auto exporter.

Before the international backlash against the Saudi kingdom, last month Germany approved 416 million euros ($470 million) worth of arms exports to Riyadh for 2018.

Khashoggi's killing has tainted the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer, and tested ties between Washington and Riyadh as Western powers demand answers over who ordered the hit and the whereabouts of the body.

Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto ruler, has denounced the "repulsive" murder, denying any involvement.

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