Germany's Merkel begins Gulf trip with stop in Saudi Arabia

Amr Abdallah Dalsh  Reuters

The German Chancellor has called for the item of clothing to be banned wherever possible.

Upon arriving at Jeddah, King Salman and top officials of the Conservative Islamic Kingdom welcomed Angela Merkel.

During her meetings in the Gulf, Merkel is urging the region's rulers to do more to take in refugees and provide humanitarian relief for those fleeing conflict in Muslim-majority countries.

Jeddah: Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia in Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah today. The King shook hands with members of the official delegation accompanying the German Chancellor.

Among other issues, the country's involvement in the long-running war in Yemen, in which many civilians have died in airstrikes carried out by warplanes from a Saudi-led Arab coalition, has raised fears that German arms may be being misused.

She is the latest in a series of female Western leaders, which includes British Prime Minister Theresa May, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, to forego the protocol.

In December, Merkel pushed ahead with her plans for a burka ban after saying the "full veil is not appropriate" in Germany.

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The lower the score, the more free the press, with North Korea receiving a score of 84.98. It took over from neighbouring Finland which had held the title for six years.

The visit was also an opportunity for Merkel to reinforce German-Saudi business relations. The kingdom is seeking to attract investment and diversify its economy away from oil, the backbone of its economy.

Still, Saudi Arabia will not request more weapons from Germany, and will concentrate instead on economic cooperation in other sectors, according to an interview in the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" published on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and Iran also back opposite sides of the conflict in Syria.

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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