Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is in Moscow for an official visit being touted as the beginning of the end of a frosty period in traditionally warm ties between Greece and Russia and during which energy cooperation is expected to be a key focus of talks.
Tsipras is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, as well as his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
Apart from energy, Greek and Russian officials are expected to discuss the so-called Prespes name deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which Moscow objects to as it paves the way for the Balkan state to join NATO. Other points of discussion will be the prospects for investments and for increasing Greek exports to Russia.
In an interview with state news channel Russia-24 and news agency TASS, Tsipras expressed hopes for strategic investments with Russia, particularly in energy. “Greece and other European countries should seek a cooperation with the Russian republic for the transfer of Russian natural gas toward Europe, via Turkish Stream,” he said, adding that the pipeline should be called Europe Stream.
Greece is in “dialogue” with the European Union regarding the extension of the Russian-backed TurkStream gas pipeline across Greek territory to other EU countries, he added. “We value the fact that Russia is an important partner in the energy sector, as it has rich energy sources,” Tsipras said, adding that Greece has pursued a multifaceted energy policy since 2015.
Although there are limits to Greece’s potential cooperation with Russia, in view of the former’s restrictions as a member of the European Union and NATO, Athens is keen to forge closer ties with Moscow due to its evolving strategic relationship with Turkey.
According to sources, Tsipras will stress his conviction that Russia cannot be left out of the EU’s security architecture.
Athens is also keen to mend the damage caused to bilateral ties in the summer when it expelled Russian diplomats, claiming that they had sought to undermine the Prespes name deal and meddle in domestic affairs. Moscow responded in kind by expelling Greek envoys.
Russia is the only member of the United Nations Security Council that objects to the name deal, which it views as part of a NATO plan to expand its influence in the Western Balkans.