PM Stands By Defence Minister Over Controversial Saudi Arms Deal in Parliament Debate

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras dutifully stood by his Defence minister and coalition partner Panos Kammenos in a fierce parliamentary debate over the controversial Saudi Arms deal. They were both hammered by opposition parties, and the term “scandal” was often repeated.

“Your purpose is not to strike a blow against Kammenos, but to strike a blow against the government,” Tsipras said, charging main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis with “trying to create destabilizing conditions” while preventing the country’s exit from the financial crisis.

Addressing New Democracy, the premier said that “this government is succeeding where you have failed for five years,” and added that the government “will not just take the country out of the crisis, it will win the next national elections as well.”

In his speech earlier, ND’s leader Mitsotakis called the agreement “a first-class scandal” and criticized Tsipras for “covering up for Kammenos.” Mitsotakis also criticized the government for “reviving the use of middlemen, which had been abolished after the cases of former Defence Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos,” referring to the PASOK former minister who was jailed over bribery and money laundering.

In reference to Kammenos, Mitsotakis said: “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 didn’t. Is he blackmailing you with toppling the government”?

The agreement for the sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia was “a totally legal agreement between states without any middlemen,” Defence Minister and ANEL party leader Panos Kammenos said. He added that the opposition had chosen to manufacture a non-existing scandal.

The country‘s supreme court prosecutor has ordered an investigation on the sale after press reports that the government used a middleman to broker the deal; something illegal in government-to-government deals since it is seen as likely to lead to corrupt practices.

(Source: AMNA)