by Aggelos Skordas
An arm sale of surplus missiles and bombs from Greece to Saudi Arabia, worth 66 million euros, has triggered a fierce debate in Parliament on Monday between coalition government partners SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) and opposition parties. Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused the government of being “unethical” for not following the proper procedures for a deal signed with the Arab Gulf country. At the same time critics, among whom at least two government MPs and human rights NGO Amnesty International, voice their concern over an agreement signed with a country currently engaged in conflict with neighbouring Yemen.
Opposition parties had tabled a question to National Defense Minister and junior coalition partner ANEL leader Panos Kammenos over the deal. During his speech Mitsotakis said the agreement is “a first-class scandal” and criticised the Premier for “covering up” his government partner. Tsipras responded by accusing the opposition of targeting the Defense Minister in order to destabilise the government because they do not want it to get the country out of the crisis: “Your purpose is not to strike a blow against Kammenos, your purpose it to strike a blow against the government”, he characteristically said, adding that despite the opposition’s and “media lobbies’” efforts the current government will also win next elections.
In addition, Mitsotakis accused the government for bringing back to the National Defense Ministry middlemen, a practice that has been abolished since the conviction of former minister of PASOK Akis Tsochatzopoulos who was jailed over bribery and money laundering: “Your own government ally is proven to be selling shells and bombs to Arab countries with the help of middlemen. In any democratic country, the Prime Minister would have dismissed his minister. You did not”, he added asking the Premier if his government partner is blackmailing him, with bringing the government down.
On his behalf, Kammenos said the agreement was “totally legal” and no middlemen were involved, accusing opposition for manufacturing a not-existing scandal. New Democracy has previously called for Kammenos to resign over the 66 million worth “provocative” deal, that was executed “without a trace of transparency”, as it involved a private broker who was negotiating the terms of the deal with Saudi Arabia. The government claimed the broker, a Greek national, was hired by Saudi Arabia. PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata also accused the Prime Minister for trying to cover up the shady agreement.