Pressure mounts on gov’t after MEPs call for arms sales ban to Saudi Arabia

Pressure mounts on gov’t after MEPs call for arms sales ban to Saudi Arabia

European lawmakers on Thursday adopted a resolution by 539 votes to 13, with 81 abstentions, condemning the ongoing violence in Yemen and urging EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to impose an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, given the serious allegations that the Gulf state is breaching international humanitarian law.

Greek MEP Constantina Kouneva from ruling SYRIZA, Manolis Kefaloyiannis from conservative New Democracy and Nikos Hountis from Popular Unity were among those who backed the resolution.

The decision is expected to put more pressure on the leftist-led government in Athens, which has come under fire in recent weeks over a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia from the opposition but also from within its own ranks.

Several high-ranking officials within the ruling party have called for the cancellation of the agreement on the grounds that the missiles in question could be used in Yemen.

Speaking to The Guardian on Wednesday, former deputy European affairs minister Nikos Xydakis said “Greece is a hub of stability, peace and friendship in the greater region and that is what it should be exporting. There is no need for this [deal] to go through and frankly when we’re talking about €66 million, not €66 billion, it isn’t worth the trouble. It’s not the sort of money that will save Greece.”

Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, a senior member of the ruling party’s hard left, as well as influential party member and MP Nikos Filis have also argued against the agreement on moral grounds.

Criticism has also come from human rights group Amnesty International, which this week called on Greece “to immediately rescind the sale and transfer of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and to refuse approval of the transport of every type of conventional weapons, ammunitions and war material to point of conflicts in Yemen.”

The conservative opposition, meanwhile, has accused Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who also leads junior coalition party Independent Greeks, of using an intermediary to broker the deal when this is expressly forbidden by Greek law.

In a press conference on Thursday, ND spokesman Makis Voridis said there may be evidence to suggest that documents presented at a debate in Parliament by Kammenos in his defense may not be legal or official.

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