With Trouble in Aegan, New Democracy Holds Off Kammenos Probe

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. (Photo via Eurokinissi)

ATHENS – The major rival New Democracy has decided to wait before asking Parliament to look into Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’ aborted deal to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia through a shadowy middleman so he can deal with growing Turkish provocations in the Aegean, with tension build there.

Kammenos is the leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA who have let him be the point man in dealing with Turkey.

That was until the new troubles where Turkey sent warships to block an Italian company from reaching Cypriot waters to drill for oil and gas and a Turkish vessel bumped into a Greek patrol boat off the uninhabited rocky islets of Imia where the two countries almost went to war in 1996 over similar incidents.

The usually bellicose Kammenos, who has put wreaths on the spot near Imia where three Greek servicemen died in 1996 when their helicopter went down under still-mysterious circumstances, has faded from view since opposing Tsipras’ plans to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) keep the word Macedonia in a new composite name despite protests.

Kammenos opposes the name giveaway but is in a tight spot because if he pulls his party from the coalition it could bring down the government and he would have almost no chance of returning to Parliament with surveys showing ANEL at about 1 percent after he joined Tsipras in reneging on anti-austerity promises.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was more prudent to hold off looking into Kammenos – who left the Conservatives to form his own tiny party that came into power after he agreed to join SYRIZA in a coalition of ideological enemies.

Kammenos wanted to sell Saudi Arabia missiles and bombs, a 66-million euro ($78.7 million) contract critics said was done unlawfully through a private broker and as some in SYRIZA opposed it because they said the weapons would be used to bomb Yemen.

The Parliament later revoked the deal at the same time the European Parliament was squeezing Greece not to go through with it although Tsipras, who needs the nine votes of Kammenos’ party to have a majority, backed him unequivocally.