Tsipras-Putin talks yield pledge for better ties but no results

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras departed from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday with the promise of closer cooperation between the two countries but no tangible outcome.

Both men made it clear there had been no Greek request for a loan but agreed that there could be grounds for Russian investment in Greece in the future. Putin also said that he could not lift the ban on the importation of Greek agricultural products.

“The Greek side has not addressed us with any requests for aid,” Putin told journalists. “We discussed cooperation in various sectors of the economy, including the possibility of developing major energy projects.”

Putin said Russia has an interest in Greek privatizations, with the Thessaloniki Port Authority being one of the most appealing assets to Moscow. The president also suggested his country could provide credit for joint projects with Greece in the future, possibly including the planned Turkish Stream pipeline to carry Russian gas to Europe via Turkey.

The Greek leader was unable to obtain a firm commitment from Putin on the lifting of a ban on Greek food imports, which saw exports of the prohibited items plummet 40 percent last year. “We cannot make an exception for one country in the European Union,” he said.

Tsipras stressed that he had not gone to Moscow in search of a solution to Greece’s economic crisis. “Greece is not a beggar going around countries asking them to solve its economic problem, an economic crisis that doesn’t only concern Greece but is a European crisis,” he said.

The Greek prime minister said his government would examine the possibility of building a pipeline from the Greek-Turkish border, where Turkish Stream would end, in order to carry gas across Greece and on to other European countries. However, he said he would consult with Greece’s European Union partners over the project.

Nevertheless, Tsipras stressed a number of times that his visit to Moscow, which served as a target for criticism from some European politicians, was not incompatible with Greece’s role as an EU member. “Greece is a sovereign country with an unquestionable right to implement a multidimensional foreign policy and exploit its geopolitical role,” he said.

The Greek premier added that he is in favor of ending sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis but stressed that Moscow and Kiev have to uphold the recently signed Kiev agreement.

Putin also rejected claims that the meeting between the two leaders was part of a Russian effort to foster division within the EU or to take advantage of Greece’s economic weakness to do so. “We are not forcing anyone to do anything,” he said. “I want to assure you that we do not aim to use any internal European Union situations to improve ties with the European bloc as a whole. We want to work with the whole of united Europe,” he said.

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