Against the backdrop of tension created by the West’s confrontation with Moscow over the Ukrainian issue, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Russian President Vladimir Putin held warm talks on Wednesday in Sochi, without, however, reaching an agreement that would upgrade bilateral relations outside a framework of mainly cultural exchanges and the environment.
Athens and Moscow are likely to agree on the continuation this summer of Greece’s leasing of Beriev firefighting planes and despite its problems with NATO, Russia’s warships will still be able to dock in some ports and in the two old anchorages off Kythira and Astypalea.
Putin’s introductory remarks were particularly positive, referring to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, recalling that his country “was the first to recognize the Greek state” and that the two peoples are “interconnected”.
He described talks with Mitsotakis as “comprehensive and effective” citing the joint adoption of a Greece-Russia Action Plan for 2022-2024 which was worked on last week by Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Russian Transport Minister, Vitaly Saveliev.
Putin cited a 56% increase in bilateral trade and expressed Moscow’s interest in investing in Greece while thanking Athens for the decision to recognize vaccination certificates with the Sputnik shot.
He also said Russia decided to hand over to Greece the archives of the Jewish communities that had been transferred from the Nazis to Germany and ended up in Moscow after 1945, while announcing the extension of the Year of Greek-Russian History until mid-2022
For his part Mitsotakis noted that “Russia is part of the European architectural security” and made explicit reference to Turkey, which he said only adopts “inflammatory rhetoric but also aggressive actions that violate international law threatening stability in the region.”
He reiterated Greece’s readiness for dialogue “but in the context of International Law and the Law of the Sea,”while thanking Russia for its stance on the Cyprus issue. He noted, however, that if Turkey starts settlements in the town of Varosha in Turkish-occupied Cyprus this would scupper any chance of progress.
Putin made no public reference to Greek-Turkish relations but reiterated Moscow’s support of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in the context of UN resolutions on the Cyprus issue. He noted that the East Med, Balkans and European relations were on the agenda.