EU rebuffs Greek criticism of Ukraine statement

The European Union rebuffed on Wednesday criticism from the new Greek government that it had not been consulted about a statement calling for work on possible new sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

EU leaders issued the unusual joint statement on Tuesday in response to an upsurge in fighting in Ukraine, a day after left-winger Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece’s prime minister.

Tsipras’s office said on Tuesday the EU should have secured consent from Athens before issuing the statement. It said Tsipras had voiced his dissatisfaction in a phone call with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

A spokesman for Donald Tusk, head of the European Council of EU leaders, said the council regretted that the Greek government could not associate itself with the statement.

«We consulted all member states including a representative of the new Greek government. It was our understanding that the statement had been agreed by all Monday evening,» the spokesman said.

«When we learned of the Greek hesitation Tuesday morning …, we suggested to insert a footnote explaining that Greece was not covered by the statement. As Greece did not want such a footnote, it was clear to us that we could publish the statement as agreed in the evening,» he said.

In a further sign that the election of the new Greek government will make it even harder to forge EU unity on sanctions, Greece’s newly appointed Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was quoted on Wednesday as saying Greece had no interest in imposing sanctions on Russia.