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Saudi Arabia and Germany said to be working to resolve spat

[RIYADH] Germany is working with Saudi Arabia on an agreement toward resolving a diplomatic rift that has lasted almost a year, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The spat, triggered by German accusations of undue Saudi influence over Lebanon, has damaged business ties between Saudi Arabia and its largest European trading partner and focused attention on the kingdom's newly aggressive foreign policy under 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Canada recently extended an olive branch in a separate tussle sparked by criticism of a Saudi human-rights case.

The German and Saudi governments are negotiating the wording of a joint statement that would allow a Saudi ambassador to return to Berlin, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter isn't public. The Saudi government's Center for International Communication did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The German Foreign Ministry wasn't immediately available for comment.

Relations deteriorated in November after remarks by Germany's then-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. He suggested that the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri while on a trip to Riyadh showed that Lebanon was a "pawn" of Saudi Arabia.

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The Saudi government condemned his comments, and shortly afterward, summoned its ambassador to Germany for consultation; he's yet to return. Saudi government agencies were also told not to renew some non-essential contracts with German firms, Bloomberg reported in March.

Last week, Germany approved the delivery of four artillery positioning systems to Saudi Arabia, though Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition had agreed earlier this year to halt arms sales to countries involved in the war in Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels for more than three years, contributing to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.