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Moscow ready to boost military cooperation with Athens, says ambassador

Moscow and Athens have overcome a crisis in bilateral relations, an ambassador says

MOSCOW, December 3. /TASS/. Moscow is open to expanding military and technical cooperation with Athens and is ready to discuss new projects, Russian Ambassador to Greece, Andrey Maslov, told TASS.

The diplomat recalled that Greece is currently armed with the Russia-made military equipment, which Moscow supplied to Athens more than 15 years ago. "At present, cooperation in this area is developing largely through the maintenance of the Russia-made weaponry that Greece already has," he stated. "There are no complaints about our equipment from the Greek side since it has proven itself to be good and high-quality."

"We in turn are open to stepping up cooperation in this area and are ready to discuss new projects," Maslov pointed out.

The fact that Greece is a member of the North Atlantic Alliance imposes "certain restrictions on the development of its military and technical cooperation with Russia," the ambassador noted. "However, dialogue between Moscow and Athens on military and technical cooperation doesn’t stop," the diplomat emphasized. "As such, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos has recently visited Moscow. A special mixed commission on military and technical cooperation meets regularly with the last session having been convened in the summer of 2017."

Crisis in relations

Moscow and Athens have overcome a crisis in bilateral relations, which followed the Greek government’s decision to expel two Russian diplomats and issue entry bans for another two, he said. 

When asked whether more diplomatic workers could be expelled from the Russian mission, Maslov stressed that "there are no signs pointing to Greece’s intentions to take any such measures." "Today, relations between our countries develop normally and preparations for the Greek prime minister’s visit to Moscow are the best proof of improving ties," the ambassador noted. "We have been cooperating constructively with our Greek colleagues in preparing for the December summit, we are also making plans for the future. I believe that the July chapter in Russian-Greek relations has been closed.

According to Maslov, relations between Moscow and Athens are special. "Our relations have a very solid historical, cultural and spiritual foundation, which - as [Russian Foreign] Minister Sergey Lavrov said in September at the opening ceremony of the Foreign Ministry’s exhibition dedicated to the 190th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries - are impervious to erosion and defy external pressure," the Russian ambassador said, adding that the Greek authorities understood that too.

Expulsion of diplomats

On July 11, the Greek Kathimerini daily reported, citing diplomatic sources, that Athens had decided to expel two Russian diplomats and ban another two from entering the country. According to the daily, Athens accused the diplomats of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs and undermining the national security of Greece. However, the same sources said that Greece was still willing to maintain good relations with Russia, facilitate friendship between the two countries’ people, as well as cooperation between the two governments.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the move would not positively affect bilateral relations, spurring a tit-for-tat response. On August 6, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Greek Ambassador Andreas Friganas to hand him a note on retaliatory measures.