Amnesty International urges Greece to scrap Saudi arms sale

November 27, 2017

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsirpas laughs during a debate at the Greek Parliament in Athens, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. A leading global rights watchdog is urging Greece's government to scrap a controversial arms sale to Saudi Arabia, saying the weapons could be used against civilians in the ongoing war in Yemen. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A leading global rights organization on Monday urged Greece’s government to halt the sale of thousands of artillery shells to Saudi Arabia, saying the weapons could be used against civilians in the ongoing war in Yemen.

Amnesty International voiced deep concern over the proposed deal, saying there was a “real danger” that 300,000 shells would be used by the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in the impoverished country.

“Amnesty International calls 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 materiel to points of conflict in Yemen,” a statement said.

The agreement, worth an estimated 66 million euros ($78.3 million), has been strongly criticized by Greek opposition parties, while at least two lawmakers in the governing left-wing Syriza party have called for its cancellation on grounds that the arms could be used in Yemen.

During a parliamentary debate, Communist party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas accused the Greek government of helping to fuel the war in Yemen that has resulted in “slaughter, famine” and the strengthening of radical Islamic militants.

Other parties including the main opposition New Democracy suggested that Defense Minister Panos Kammenos had negotiated a shady deal through an unauthorized middleman instead of dealing directly with the Saudi government.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras strongly defended deal, saying that negotiations were above board and conducted with a representative authorized by the Saudi government.

Tsipras accused opposition parties of resorting to unfounded allegations to undermine a government that is steering Greece out of eight years of crushing economic crisis that saw the country receive three multibillion euro (dollar) rescue deals.

“They want to foment conditions of instability because they don’t want this government to lead the country out of this crisis at all costs,” Tsipras told parliament.

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