Russian president due in Athens on Thursday

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay his first visit to Greece on Thursday for two days of talks likely to be dominated by the Balkans and other regional security issues, the Kremlin said yesterday. Putin’s visit will launch «a new stage of constructive partnership between the two countries,» First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev told the Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS. Avdeyev said Putin and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis would discuss efforts to reach political settlements in the Balkans. They will also discuss the Middle East, Afghanistan and Cyprus. In Athens, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said Putin and Simitis would sign agreements on cooperation in matters of justice, police affairs, air transport, the merchant marine, fuel and energy, as well as for setting up cultural centers. Nevertheless, in their temporary movements in the EU they will be covered by the agencies of the country in which they reside. In the case of Greece this will be the Social Security Foundation (IKA).

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