Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to travel to Moscow on December 7 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that are expected to focus on the economy, investments, energy and regional issues, as well as the restoration of good diplomatic relations.
The official reason for the timing of the meeting is to mark the 190th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Athens. However, it is clear that officials from both countries are keen to repair the damage from a diplomatic spat that followed the expulsion of diplomats from both countries in the summer.
The dispute started in July when Greece expelled two Russian diplomats, accusing them of intrusion into domestic affairs and jeopardizing national security. A war of words followed, culminating in Moscow expelling two Greek diplomats. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had been expected to visit Athens to pave the way for talks between Tsipras and Putin later in the year.
Plans for Tsipras’s Moscow visit also come in the wake of a major clash between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate over the latter’s decision to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Apart from diplomacy, the two leaders are expected to discuss several regional issues, including Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and the Cyprus problem, as well as Russia’s relations with NATO and the European Union.
According to reports, Tsipras and Putin are also expected to discuss the TurkStream natural gas pipeline, which was inaugurated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week in the presence of Putin.