Just three days before the parliamentary debate on the munitions sale to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh on November 24 sent a diplomatic verbal note to Athens. It called upon Greece not to be influenced by any decision or resolution that could impose an arms embargo on Riyadh.
At the same time, it appears that the Greek foreign ministry had reasons to harbor reservations about the activities of Vasilis Papadopoulos’ Olympiaki Viomihania S.A., as Greek military materiel that the company had exported to the Middle East had ended up in Raqqa, which until recently was the capital of the Islamic State (ISIS).
That, in turn, led to the involvement of Greece’s EYP intelligence service, which was asked to deliver an opinion on the sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia.
It is unclear precisely what weaponry was tracked down in Raqqa, but what is known is that it was found by European intelligence services due to the electronic imprint that small and light weapons (SALW) often carry, due the common EU agreement on arms exports. Greece is a party to the 2014 agreement.
What is clear, however, is that the weaponry was not exported to Raqqa, but to some other country that acted as a conduit.
Saudi Arabia’s belated interest in how Athens would handle arms exports to Riyadh included a reference in the verbal note to the European Parliament’s 13 September, 2017, resolution on arms exports, and more specifically the common position of the European Council on setting rules to check the export of military technology and arms.
The resolution noted the use in Yemen of arms exported to Saudi Arabia, and asked EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to undertake an initiative to impose an arms embargo on Riyadh.
With that in mind, the Saudi’s verbal note asks Athens, “not to respond to any resolution” that would impose an embargo on Riyadh. The move may be seen as a preventive measure, looking ahead towards a possible UN resolution in the future as well.
The Saudi affair also brought to light the fact that Greece, at least in its dealings with the Saudis, has been remiss in implementing the EU’s 2008 common position on arms exports.
The position requires member-states to annually file data on an EU-wide data base on the export of military equipment.
According to a classified Greek foreign ministry document dated 21 June, 2017, Athens for three consecutive years has not filed with the EU any data on its arms exports, even though all other countries do so.