Following diplomatic discord between Berlin and Riyadh, contracts for German businesses in Saudi Arabia have been drying up. Is the crown prince punishing them?
Detlef Daues is a pioneer of the German small- and medium-sized companies that have made Germany what it is today: a prosperous nation with good international relations that stretch to even the farthest-flung corners of the world.
His Hannover-based virtual department store for original replacement parts, V-Line GmbH, services customers in countries like Mexico, the United States, Qatar and Oman in addition to others in East Asia. But 65 percent of Daues’ revenues come from Saudi Arabia.
But currently, the once-positive relationship between Saudi Arabia and Germany has worsened. Six months ago, Riyadh withdrew its ambassador from Germany and he still hasn’t returned. There has been little open discussion of the reasons behind the conflict, but for people like Daues in the business community, the rift is as plain as day. “For Germans, the doors in Riyadh have suddenly been closed,” says one experienced businessman in the Saudi capital. Meetings with delegations from Germany that were set up before the crisis are being canceled. “That hurts,” says Oliver Oehms of the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs in Riyadh.
Young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS for short, appears to be “deeply offended” by the German government, says Daues, who adds that his information comes from confidants in Riyadh. Relations between the two countries began souring last November when then-German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke of spreading “political adventurism” in the Middle East, a remark many thought was aimed at Saudi Arabia. The impression was widespread at the time that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being held against his will in Riyadh and that he was being strong-armed by the rulers there to step down.