Athens aims to tighten ties with Russia

As talks founder with the country’s international creditors, the government is focusing on preparing for a visit to Moscow next week by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a bid to make it a historic meeting, marking a new chapter in Greece’s foreign policy and in bilateral relations.

Tsipras’s visit to Moscow will follow that by Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis, who said Tuesday that Greece was in favor of the so-called Turkish Stream gas pipeline crossing through its territory. Cooperation on this project is expected to be a key issue in talks between Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency on Tuesday, Tsipras said he envisaged bilateral ties warming considerably and Greece becoming a “bridge between the West and Russia.” “I don’t know if it resembles Siberian winter, but this was a winter, and now we live through spring and we must support this spring for the real development of our relationship,” Tsipras added.

At his first European Union summit in January, Tsipras said he asked the other leaders what role they see Russia playing “in the broader EU security architecture” but said many did not reply. “In my understanding, the answer is clear: The new European security architecture should also include Russia,” he said.

The Greek premier said an improved cooperation could be sought in the energy, tourism and agricultural sectors. “We can have a substantial cooperation that will allow Greece to export its agricultural goods to the Russian Federation,” he said.

Peach and nectarine producers in the northern Greek region of Macedonia are hoping that talks between Tsipras and Putin in Moscow next week might allow them to retap the Russian market, Kathimerini understands. A Russian embargo on agricultural producers in Greece and other countries, imposed last summer to protest European Union sanctions over Ukraine, has tested Greek exports. But producers have already set their sights on other markets in a bid to offset losses. The first consignments of kiwi fruit from Imathia have already been sent to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

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