German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has publicly accused Saudi Arabia on Sunday of financing Islamic extremism in the West and warned that it must stop.
This unusual criticism of the Gulf state follows a report by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency which suggested that Saudi foreign policy was becoming more “impulsive”.
“We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Mr Gabriel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.
The Saudis have long funded the building of Wahhabi mosques around the world to spread the sect.
King Salman has already been widely criticised in the German media for offering to build 200 mosques for Syrian refugees arriving in Germany, even as Saudi Arabia refuses to take in any refugees itself.
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“We need Saudi Arabia to solve the regional conflicts,” Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, told the mass-circulation newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
“But we must at the same time make clear that the time to look away is past. Wahhabi mosques are financed all over the world by Saudi Arabia. In Germany, many dangerous Islamists come from these communities,” he said.
In a statement, the Saudi Arabia embassy in Berlin said the Kingdom was interested in countering the radicalization of young people and referred to a previous statement in which it denied wanting to build 200 mosques in Germany.
“Like Germany, we are part of the anti-Islamic State coalition and fighting side by side against terror,” it said.
Gabriel is Angela Merkel’s deputy and the leader of the German chancellor’s main coalition partner.
The Saudis have cracked down on jihadists at home and cut militant finance streams, but some groups, including Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda, follow an extreme interpretation of the Salafi branch of Islam of which Wahhabism was the original strain.