A majority in the parliamentary committee on armaments decided today to revoke the decisions it took in January and March, 2017, to sell shells and bombs to Saudi Arabia.
The move constitutes a political annulment of the deal, but the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defense must formally approve for the agreement to be canceled officially.
Democratic Left party president Thanasis Theocharopoulos spoke of a “political defeat” for Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
Main opposition New Democracy refused to participate in the vote as it believes the deal has already collapsed and that they would be participating in a charade.
New Democracy MP Costas Tasoulas presented the committee with the European Parliament’s 25 February, 2016, resolution which referred to the need to implement an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.
He noted that Kammenos and the government invoked more recent Europarliament resolutions, issued after the deal with the Saudis, which they used as a pretext to cancel the deal. “We will not participate so as not to make this thing easier for Syriza,” he said.
In testifying before the committee, Kammenos admitted that the deal is already defunct, as the deadlines have passed without payment having been made.
Kammenos underlined that without an irrevocable letter of credit, there is no agreement. He asserted that when the decisions were taken to pursue the agreement, the European Parliament resolutions did not exist.
Regarding the sale of bombs to the Saudis, Kammenos said it would not be pursued due to the last resolution calling on the EU to impose an embargo.
Although the decisions of the committee are non-binding, the decision to rescind its prior approvals represents a denunciation of the political handling of the affair.
Nikos Filis: We corrected an error
Syriza MP and former education minister Nikos Filis, who led the charge to cancel the agreements, declared that “we corrected an error”.
Asked if he criticised the minister in the closed chamber session, Filis said, “I expressed self-criticism, regarding the stance of the party [Syriza] and of the government.”
Filis said that New Democracy’s decision to abstain from the vote poses a big question mark, as does its failure to support the embargo resolution in the European Parliament. He implied that New Democracy, for its own reasons, does not wish to cancel the deal.
Opposition speaks of ‘political defeat’
“There is no decision. We will not discuss an agreement that does not exist,” a New Democracy source said.
The party reiterated its call to summon before the committee the army officer whistleblower who filed a complaint about the deal, Brigadier General Michail Papadakis, ‘middleman’ Vasilis Papdopoulos, EYP intelligence Service chief Yannis Roubatis, and businessman John Sfakianakis.
New Democracy raised questions about the actual role of Papadopoulos, and the actual number of munitions involved.
Sources say that ND parliamentarians asked about any possible connection to the defense ministry of a person whom they did not name, but who is reportedly the husband of an associate of Kammenos.
“The approval of the armaments committee is no longer in effect. Hence, it is a political defeat. Everything that has been revealed leaves Mr. Kammenos and the government politically exposed,” Theocharopoulos said. To Potami MP Spyros Dianellis echoed that view.