The Greek government followed all proper channels and verified that the man signing a controversial arms deal between Greece and Saudi Arabia was officially representing the Arab country, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in Parliament on Monday.
The deal was at the center of a heated discussion following a query by the opposition, which cited several irregularities in the agreement, from the role of a particular person appearing as middleman (Vassilis Papadopoulos) to the actual number of surplus Greek shells sold to the Arab country.
Greek law prohibits middlemen in defence contracts.
In the debate in Parliament, Tsipras said that Greece had asked its military attachε in the Middle East to verify the authenticity of the documents Papadopoulos filed as representative. "Saudi Arabia responded that the document was authentic," Tsipras insisted, therefore this proved that "there is no question of there being a middleman, but an agreement between two countries."
The issue has been stirred up by the main opposition for no reason, he said, but to discredit and destabilize the government.
Tsipras had said he would also address Parliament because he wanted to reply to a challenge and libel by Mitsotakis to him personally.
"Your purpose is not to strike a blow against Kammenos, your purpose it to strike a blow agains the government," Tsipras said, charging the main opposition with "trying to create destabilizing conditions because (ND) do not want this government to take the country out of the crisis."
Addressing ND, the premier said that "this government is succeeding where you 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."
The agreement for the sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia was "a totally legal agreement between states without any middlemen," Defence Minister and Independent Greeks (ANEL) party leader Panos Kammenos said in Parliament.
He said that the opposition had chosen to manufacture a scandal that did not exist.
Kammenos submitted a series of documents that present Vassilis Papadopoulos as Saudi Arabia's representative. As far as the government was concerned, he added, Papadopoulos represented Saudi Arabia and this had been explained in multiple ways. "I do not care who represents Saudi Arabia, I care about the law and I act strictly within the law," said Kammenos.
Mitsotakis: Tsipras didn't answer any of the questions on the Saudi arms deal
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the arms deal between Greece and Saudi Arabia "a first-class scandal" and criticized Tsipras for "covering up" for Defence Minister Panos Kammenos during a fierce debate in parliament on Monday.
Mitsotakis criticized the government for "bringing back to the ministry of National Defence the use of middlemen, which had been abolished after the cases of former (National Defence Minister Akis) Tsochatzopoulos," referring to the PASOK former minister who was jailed over bribery and money laundering.
Commenting on Kammenos, who is leader of the junior party in the ruling coalition (ANEL), the opposition leader 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 bringing the government down" How can you go to elections with 15 billion euros' worth of measures and record taxes?"
In his follow-up remarks in parliament, Mitsotakis noted that Tsipras did not answer the main questions posed by ND, such as why intermediaries are needed for an intergovernmental deal.
"Mr. Papadopoulos was an intermediary. We voted the law in 2011 because we have been hurt and paid as a country in order to end with middlemen. You and your minister chose to bring them back [...] from the front door. Your ambassador had warned you about the role of Mr. Papadopoulos. The message sent by our ambassador at the end of August on 2017 shortly before the Saudi Arabian delegation arrived [in Athens," he said.
A second question is why the prime minister is allowed access to confidential documents and lawmakers are not. "This is called a cover-up," he said.
The third question is where the money from the deal went if it was legal and the fourth question is who the intermediary really worked for.
Gennimata accusesTsipras of a cover-up on a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia
PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata accused Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for trying to cover up a shady arms deal of the ministry of defense to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, during a fierce debate in parliament on Monday.
"It is a government lost among middle men and a prime minister who is trying to cover up a scandalous affair," she told MPs and accused Defence Minister Panos Kammenos of trying to deceive parliament.
"Mr. Kammenos is attempting to deceive the House," she said and turning to Tsipras she added: "Had Mr. Kammenos informed you or not? If yes, you are jointly responsible and you should be held accountable."
Gennimata submitted to parliament three documents on the case, as well as an article of a law voted by PASOK in 2011 which forbids the use of intermediaries in agreements for the purchase and sale of military equipment.
"The documents I submitted prove that only through an intergovernmental agreement and not with Mr. [Vassilis] Papadopoulos as a middleman," she said.
Gennimata also criticized Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias who she said threatened lawmakers with legal repercussions if they reveal the content of confidential documents in order to hide the role of the intermediary, Papadopoulos.