NEWS

Arms deal takes on new twist

TAGS: Politics, Defense

The controversy surrounding the arms agreement with Saudi Arabia took on a new twist on Thursday after Defense Minister Panos Kammenos tweeted that he plans to allow lawmakers access to classified documents pertaining to the deal and to declassify other related documents.

It was unclear, however, if a defense minister has the right to declassify documents.

The remarks by Kammenos, who is also the leader of the junior coalition party, Independent Greeks, came a day after Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis refused to grant lawmakers permission to view classified documents about the deal that an MP had seen. New Democracy has dubbed the affair the “Kammenos scandal.”

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had also warned that the illegal publication of classified documents is punishable with a 10-year jail sentence.

ND, however, issued a statement on Thursday asking, “What are [Prime Minister Alexis]Tsipras and Kammenos afraid of?”

“The unheard-of denial by Voutsis to allow access to documents that are related to the Kammenos scandal and the threats by Kotzias simply confirm the government’s panic,” ND said. Voutsis dismissed the criticism, saying that his refusal was in accordance with the law.

The multi-million-euro deal for the sale of missiles and bombs to Saudi Arabia has led to a hail of government criticism, amid allegations that it was not conducted transparently.

However, the government struck a defiant tone  on Thursday, saying that any questions will be satisfactorily answered during Monday’s parliamentary debate over the deal’s transparency and the role played by Kammenos.

The government is reportedly banking on the expectation that the debate, which is being billed as a showdown between Tsipras and ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, will expose those who have “resorted to sensationalism” due to the political impasse that they are at.

Kammenos also said Thursday that the Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA) has ordered an internal investigation into the leak of the classified documents.

Meanwhile, former education minister Nikos Filis said on Thursday that, while he is certain that both Tsipras and Kammenos will provide satisfactory answers to the accusations during the debate, the deal should be scrapped as the arms may be used by Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen.

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