Greece says seeking to ‘prevent rift’ between EU and Russia

Greece will try to bridge the divide between the EU and Russia over the Ukraine conflict, its new foreign minister said Thursday ahead of a meeting on new sanctions that Athens has questioned.

Nikos Kotzias would not say if Greece would back new measures against Moscow, after new premier Alexis Tsipras complained that an EU leaders’ statement on sanctions this week was issued without his consent.

“Greece is working for the restoration of peace and stability in the Ukraine and at same time is working for the preventing (of a) rift between European Union and Russia,” Kotzias told reporters.

Diplomatic sources said Greece had so far refused to approve a draft statement, seen by AFP, which recommends the blacklisting of new individuals, an extension of general sanctions until September and work on new economic measures.

EU leaders called the meeting on Tuesday, instructing ministers to weigh further sanctions following deadly fighting in the key port city of Mariupol between Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed rebels.

But Tsipras accused EU leaders of “bypassing the normal procedure” by not notifying his new government about the statement. The EU said it had followed normal rules. [AFP]