Germany defended on Friday a decision to allow the export of tanks and artillery to Qatar, saying it was confident the arms would not be used in a war in Yemen between government supporters and the Iran-allied Houthis.
The newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung
reported on Friday that four German Leopard 2 tanks and three howitzers had recently been shipped from Germany, bound for Qatar.
The shipment is controversial because German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel vowed last year to be much more cautious in licensing arms exports, and because Berlin is seeking to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.
"Regarding Yemen, Qatar explicitly has no plans for the delivery of combat equipment and is supporting the situation there by delivering humanitarian aid supplies," German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said.
"We are rather confident that those weapons can and will not be deployed in current armed conflicts, such as in Yemen," Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said.
However, military sources told Reuters last month that Qatari troops were headed to Yemen and preparing to join a new push against Houthi positions in the country's capital, Sanaa.
Wirtz said the export of the arms was approved in 2013 under the previous government but that the deal still had the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's office.
"In the view of the chancellery, such a delivery is justifiable," Wirtz told a regular government news conference.