Kotzias hails ‘good compromise’ on Russia sanctions in Brussels

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias labeled as a “good compromise” the agreement in Brussels on Thursday between European Union diplomats to extend sanctions against Russia.

EU foreign ministers are to lengthen until September existing sanctions, including travel bans and assets freezes, imposed last year. They also agreed to provide new names that could be targeted by these sanctions when they meet next on February 9.

However, a sentence proposing the drawing up of “further restrictive measures” that was in a pre-meeting draft of the common statement was not included. The decision on further measures will be discussed at a meeting of EU leaders next month.

A rift appeared to open between Athens and its EU partners after it objected to not being consulted properly over the draft statement earlier in the week. This prompted concern among some EU foreign ministers that the new Greek government might block further sanctions against Russia and follow a more Moscow-friendly foreign policy.

Kotzias insisted that Greece was not the “bad boy of Europe” but that it would continue to voice objections if it had them. “Some people in Athens think that negotiations consist of adopting without question the text that is sent from Brussels and proving our Europeanness while bowing to a higher authority,” he said.

Before the meeting, Kotzias met with a number of his counterparts separately. These included German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was less concerned about Greece’s position on Russia after the meeting, a German government source told Reuters.

Also on Thursday, when questioned about whether Moscow would grant Greece a loan if asked, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that such a request would be considered.

“Well, we can imagine any situation, so if such a petition is submitted to the Russian government, we will definitely consider relationships between Russia and Greece,” he told CNBC.