Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up his two-day visit to Greece on Saturday with a trip to the monastic community on Mount Athos in northern Greece – a sacred site for the world’s Orthodox Christians – where he attended events, along with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, marking the 1,000-year presence of Russian monks there, and reaffirmed the strong cultural ties binding the two nations.
On Friday, Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed that it was time both countries turned these much-touted historic links into tangible economic results.
Putin reiterated Russian interest in buyinge Greek railway company Trainose and a stake in Thessaloniki port – the country’s second largest – while Tsipras said Greece could serve as a bridge of understanding between Moscow and Brussels, within the context of the leftist government’s expressed intention to forge stronger relationships with countries outside the European Union and NATO.
Tsipras reiterated that strengthening ties with Moscow was a “strategic choice” for his government, while his visit to China on July 2-6 also falls within the outlook aimed at deepening economic partnerships beyond Western shores.
Putin also used the visit – just a month before the EU examines whether it will extend trade sanction against Russia over its annexation of Crimea – to display his defiance of Western critics, saying that the issue of the peninsula on the Black Sea has “closed forever.”
Tsipras repeated Greek reservations about the sanctions and insisted they were not the solution.
“We have repeatedly said that ... the vicious circle of militarization, of Cold War rhetoric and of sanctions is not productive,” he said. “The solution is dialogue.”
However, given Greece’s fiscal constraints, Putin said he did not expect Athens to perform “the feats of Hercules” in the corridors of European bureaucracy.