Athens seeks to ease tensions with Moscow over diplomats

Athens seeks to ease tensions with Moscow over diplomats

Greek officials sought to diffuse tensions with Moscow on Thursday following reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had canceled a scheduled visit to Athens following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece.

However, following a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, sources indicated that Athens would defend its national sovereignty. 

Tsipras and Kotzias met in the wake of Lavrov’s decision to call off a trip scheduled for September.

In a statement to Russia’s Tass news agency, Russia’s ambassador to Greece, Andrey Maslov, said the planned visit was no longer timely.

He reiterated that Moscow would take “mirror measures” following Greece’s expulsion of two Russian diplomats but did not give further details. “I don’t know when, who and how many, but of course… there will be countermeasures,” Tass quoted him as saying.

Greek sources noted that the visit had been planned at Russia’s request, though Moscow seemed to suggest otherwise.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to visit Moscow during a phone call in March and the planned Lavrov trip had been expected to lay the groundwork for that.

Following Tsipras’s meeting with Kotzias on Thursday, government sources indicated that the government would “respond decisively every time there is an issue of national sovereignty.” At the same time, they noted, Athens was determined to continue fostering ties with Moscow. 

Earlier in the day government sources indicated that Lavrov is welcome in Athens. 

Thursday’s developments followed a particularly strong-worded exchange between the Russian and Greek foreign ministries on Wednesday.

Moscow accused Athens of being dragged into “dirty provocations” while the Greek ministry retorted that “no one can or has the right to interfere in Greece’s domestic affairs.”

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