ATHENS – An apparently unlawful Greek deal to sell 66 million euros ($78.54 million) in weapons to Saudi Arabia has led the European Parliament to recommend an arms embargo amid fears bombs are being used to attack Yemen and spike a humanitarian crisis.
By a vote of 539-13, with 81 abstentions, the EU lawmakers urged the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to bar the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia as even some members of Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA called for the deal to be broken off.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the Greek coalition, has been accused of doing a shady deal through a private broker in violation of Greek law.
The major rival New Democracy said the Saudis didn’t even know of the middleman, Vassilis Papadopoulos, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – who needs ANEL’s votes to stay in power – said they do and has backed Kammenos unconditionally.
Greek MEP Constantina Kouneva from ruling SYRIZA, Manolis Kefaloyiannis from conservative New Democracy and Nikos Hountis from Popular Unity were among those who backed the resolution.
Speaking to the British newspaper The Guardian, former deputy European Affairs Minister Nikos Xydakis said “Greece is a hub of stability, peace and friendship in the greater region and that is what it should be exporting. There is no need for this [deal] to go through and frankly when we’re talking about €66 million, not €66 billion, it isn’t worth the trouble. It’s not the sort of money that will save Greece.”
Two senior SYRIZA stalwarts, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis and MP Nikos Filis have also argued against the agreement on moral grounds and Amnesty International also called for the deal to be scuppered.
The human rights group called on Greece “to immediately rescind the sale and transfer of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and to refuse approval of the transport of every type of conventional weapons, ammunitions and war material to point of conflicts in Yemen.”
All the concerns and complaints were ignored by Tsipras, who has allowed Kammenos to be a loose cannon and do what he wants, despite the intense heat the minister is bringing on the beleaguered government.
In a news conference, New Democracy spokesman Makis Voridis said there may be evidence to suggest that documents presented at a debate in Parliament by Kammenos in his defense may not be legal or official. The minister also said he would release classified documents in violation of the law but isn’t being investigated or prosecuted for anything.