Pressure on Greece to discard weapons with Saudi Arabia | World News


The Greek government has announced that it will comply with any EU embargo on Saudi Arabia, as it faces criticism for a controversial arms deal, including its own parliamentarians.

When cracks appeared in the coalition led by the left for the 66 million euro arms deal with the kingdom, the administration's spokesman said that Athens would apply the law "by letter" if EU sanctions were announced.

"We are waiting to see the decisions of the European Parliament and we will act accordingly," Dimitris Tzannakopoulos said. "The process is frozen."

The growing tensions in the ruling Syriza party have coincided with the international condemnation of the agreement by human rights groups. Amnesty International has said that ammunition could eventually be used by the Gulf state in its war against neighboring Yemen, where civilian populations have borne the brunt of the conflict. [19659000] "[We] calls on Greece to immediately rescind the sale and transfer of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and to refuse approval of the transport of all types of conventional weapons, ammunition and war material on the verge of conflict in Yemen" said the rights group.

Prominent members of the ruling Syriza party have questioned the morality of selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and on Tuesday the military procurement committee of the Greek parliament also hinted that it could scrap the deal.

"Greece is a center of stability, peace and friendship in the larger region and that is what it should export," former Deputy Minister of European Affairs Nikos Xydakis told The Guardian. "There is no need to go through this [deal] and, frankly, when we're talking about € 66m, not € 66bn, it's not worth the trouble, it's not the kind of money that will save Greece."

Last week, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, a senior member of the hard-line left-wing ruling party, expressed fears that the transfer of arms could be used to allow human rights violations in a Yemen.

"Obviously, all countries have the right to exploit their surplus ammunition, but we must be much more careful," he told state television channel ERT. "A country the size of Greece can not sell arms no matter how they will be used."

The anger over the management of the sale by the government has exacerbated the tensions, with left and right opposition parties criticizing the apparent lack of transparency of the agreement. Accusations of impropriety have prompted calls for the resignation of defense minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the small nationalist party Anel, Syriza's junior partner in the government.

With the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, who controls 153 seats in the 300-seat parliament, the government depends on Anel's nine parliamentarians. The defense of Tsipras of Kammenos in a heated parliamentary debate on Monday has done little to dispel the issues surrounding the agreement. Recently, the prosecutor of the supreme court of Greece ordered an investigation into the sale of weapons amid accusations that Kammenos had contravened government legislation selling it through a private businessman who acts as an intermediary on behalf of Riyadh. The leaked documents published in the Greek media identified the mediator as Vbadilis Papadopoulos, the owner of a private ammunition company and a convicted arms dealer.

Addressing the deputies, the minister of defense vehemently denied the charges, saying: "It is a government – Government and there are no intermediaries."

Tsipras endorsed it by saying that Athens received badurances from the Saudi Ministry of Defense that Papadopoulous was authorized to represent Riyadh. The opposition deliberately tried to destabilize the government, he said, by making a scandal.

According to the Greek law ordered by international creditors as part of a campaign against corruption after the near-economic collapse of the country, the use of mediators in major government contracts is illegal.

Syriza emerged from the margins of Greek political life swearing to end corruption. The accusations have hurt his moral standing, although badysts say that with other Western countries, such as the United Kingdom, rushing to take advantage of similar arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Greece is being pragmatic.

"For a left government this is none of its brightest moments," said Thanos Dokos, who heads the Athens-based think tank Eliamep. "For the supporters of Syriza, this whole story has been a great blow to the high moral level that the administration has had."

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