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Russian, Greek leaders to hold first meeting after diplomatic row

December 07, 2018, 7:39 UTC+3 MOSCOW

This summer, Greece expelled two diplomats and banned entry to two more

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras


MOSCOW, December 7. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for talks which Kremlin hopes would end the period of icy relations which began when Greece expelled two Russian diplomats this summer.

It will be the first top-level Russian-Greek meeting this year. Their previous encounter took place on May 14, 2017 on the sidelines of an international forum in Beijing. The Russian leader paid his latest official visit to Greece in May 2016.

"This visit is special, because it is intended to put an end to a turbulent period in our bilateral relations," Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said, referring to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece. Besides, Greece further irritated Moscow by cancelling a number of commemorative events to mark the 25th anniversary of the bilateral friendship treaty and the 190th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.

"Both sides have demonstrated wisdom and decided to organize a visit to Russia by Prime Minister Tsipras and, therefore, end the current period of such unusual relations," Ushakov said.

Agenda of talks

According to the Kremlin press service, Friday’s talks will touch upon the entire range of bilateral trade and economic relations, including joint gas transportation projects. The two leaders will also discuss regional and international issues.

Tsipras will also meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ahead of his talks with Putin. "During the meeting, the heads of governments will discuss the current state of affairs and perspectives of Russian-Greek cooperation in trade and economy, implementation of joint projects in energy, industry, transport infrastructure, advanced technologies, agriculture and other sectors," the Russian government’s press service said.

Honest dialogue

In September, Tsipras said Moscow and Athens were working to overcome the crisis in bilateral relations, caused by Greece’s decision to expel two diplomats and ban entry to two more, and Russia’s proportionate response. Greek media attribute the current "thaw" to the resignation of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, known for his harsh anti-Russian stance.

In an interview with TASS First Deputy Director General Mikhail Gusman in the run-up to his visit to Moscow on December 7, Tsipras said his country had made a strategic choice to deepen Russian-Greek relations and strengthen close friendship between the two countries.

"This is my third visit to Russia in the capacity of prime minister. I visited Moscow for the first time a few months after I was elected in 2015. On my second visit, I was in St. Petersburg at the St. Petersburg Forum in 2015. That was a difficult period. We came to power in the country at a very critical period, in the height of difficult negotiations, under the threat of bankruptcy. I do believe, however, that we managed to overcome the crisis," he said.

In his words, "there are important possibilities for strategic investments," especially now that Greece is through with a difficult economic situation of previous years.

"There are beneficial possibilities for strategic investments in infrastructure, ports, processing industries, the agrarian and food sectors, and especially in the energy sector" as Greece wants to be an energy and transit hub in the region, he said.

The prime minister highlighted that energy cooperation is a very important sphere in Greek-Russian relations. "We value that Russia is an important partner in the energy sector, as it has rich energy sources," Tsipras said, adding that Greece has pursued the multi-faceted energy policy since he headed the government in 2015.

In his opinion, Athens and other European countries are convinced that the European Union has to move to cooperation with the Russian Federation on the TurkStream pipeline - which, according to Greece, should become not only TurkStream, but "EuroStream" as well - as part of the multifaceted policy in the energy sphere. "We are negotiating [it] in the European Union," Tsipras said. "I believe that our arguments are strong. We have persistence and patience, and I believe that possibly we will have positive results in the future."

Tsipras noted that, since the beginning of his tenure as prime minister, "a strategic choice has been made to deepen Greek-Russian relations and unfreeze them." Despite the fact that bilateral diplomatic relations have been developing for 190 years, they have not always been constructive, he added.

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