MOSCOW, May 27. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is starting his two-day visit to Greece on Friday. The plan is to hold talks with the country’s leadership and to visit Mount Athos. According to presidential aide Yuri Ushakov, "both sides are placing a high priority on the visit as both of them hope the upcoming talks and contacts will help enhance cooperation in all areas."
At his arrival Putin will meet with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and later will hold talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The Russian delegation will be presented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and others.
The talks are expected to be followed by signing of a number of joint documents, including an inter-governmental declaration on partnership and a statement for the press.
Also, Ushakov said, Putin and Tsipras will open an ‘exhibition of one masterpiece’ - display of Andrey Rublev’s icon Ascension of Jesus from the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery at the Museum of Byzantine and Christian Art.
"After that the president will have an informal contact with the leader of the oppositional New Democracy party," Ushakov said.
The high-level talks will focus on "the key issues of bilateral trade and economic and investment cooperation, particularly the implementation of joint projects in energy and transport areas," the presidential press service said.
The trade turnover between Russia and Greece dropped by 34% to $2.75 bln in 2015 affected by external factors, and by another 16% in the first quarter of this year, the press service reported. The currency fluctuations and plunging commodity prices are the main factors behind the decline as oil and natural gas traditionally account for 85% of Russian exports to Greece.
Energy issues are expected to play an important role at the upcoming negotiations. "Currently the work on projected gas supplies from Russia to Greece and Italy via third countries is on, meaning that the pipeline will cross the Black Sea and will run through one of coastal countries, probably Bulgaria further on to Greece and Italy," Ushakov said, adding that Athens "still favors reviving South Stream in one form or another". Also, eight documents are planned to be signed following the talks, among them an agreement between Rosneft and Hellenic petrolеum on supplies of oil and oil products to Greece.
The leaders of the two countries are also expected to discuss pressing international and regional problems. "I have to note that both the president [Vladimir Putin] and Prime Minister Tsipras are united in their certainty that it is necessary to reduce tension in the relations between Russia and the European Union," Ushakov said, adding that the Greek side is against the sanctions imposed by the EU but is forced to follow Brussels’ official position.
Athens has repeatedly been raising the issue of resuming supplies of agricultural products to Russia though, Ushakov said, Moscow provides "no particular terms for certain countries" of the European Union regarding lifting of food embargo.
According to the presidential aide, "Athens is positive on Russia’s policy in Syria as the political settlement of the Syrian crisis may eliminate one of the causes of illegal migration to Europe, which seriously affects Greece." The issues related to military and technical cooperation between the two countries are also very important within the upcoming visit of the Russian president to Greece "given that Greece is constantly facing the task of restraining Turkey."
On the second day of the visit, May 28, President Putin will visit Mount Athos for commemorations of the 1000th anniversary of Russian monks’ presence on the holy Mount.