PM Tsipras and President Putin joint press conference – Agreements signed on bilateral cooperation

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Athens on Friday is the culmination of a series of high-level meetings held recently and marks the restart of the relations between the two countries, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tsipras spoke about the agreements signed on bilateral cooperation in the sectors of energy, transport, tourism, shipbuilding, mining and pharmaceuticals. They also discussed promoting partnerships in the agri-food sector. “Energy constitutes a key area of economic development for Greece and the region and our strategic aim is for Greece to become an energy hub,” the Greek premier said.

He also noted that this cooperation is a strategic choice for Greece, not just because of historical ties, but because it constitutes an integral part of an active foreign policy for Greece. He said the country has stable alliances with the West “but doesn’t hesitate to extend its branches north, towards the Balkans, the wider Black Sea neighborhood, the south, in North Africa, the Middle and Far East.”

Asked about Greece’s stance towards EU sanctions against Russia, Tsipras said the country keeps its commitments to the organizations in which it is involved, is an EU and NATO country, but also a country that because of its traditional relations with Russia is extremely useful for the EU. He then stressed that there can be no future for the European continent with the EU and Russia in adversity.

“With regard to Ukraine, we attach importance to stability and peace in the region on the basis of the Minsk Agreement,” he added.

On his side, Putin noted the range of agreements signed on Friday adding that Greek-Russian relations are progressing in the Greece-Russia Year, a large part of which is promoting trade. He said bilateral trade last year totaled 2.7 billion euros.

He said the two countries agreed to emphasise investments, noting Russia has already invested 700 million euros in Greece and that there’s room for more investments in transport.

Putin also said the 10th joint ministerial committee will meet in September to discuss difficulties in cooperation and added that there are still many possibilities for cooperation in energy and the agreement signed today will contribute to its further development.

Asked by ANA-MPA under what conditions Russia could restore relations with Turkey, Putin replied: “I still cannot understand why they did this. Our forces are not fighting in Syria against the regular tactical army, but against the formations and we never thought that the Turkish fighter jet would shoot down our own aircraft. If we knew, we would have done it differently from the beginning.”

He said Turkish forces didn’t just shoot down the aircraft, they also shot the pilot. “That’s a war crime,” he said, adding they haven’t heard any explanations from the Turkish leadership. “We heard about their desire to restore relations and we also have such a desire … We do our utmost to bring the Russian-Turkish relations at a very high level.”

Commenting on EU sanctions, the Russian leader said Greece can contribute and influence EU decisions and dialogue with its neighbors, especially if it asks questions and seek solutions for large regional projects, adding that it has connection to other areas, such as politics and security.

Concerning Syria, he said that to stop the refugee flows to Europe, world leaders will have to provide refugees with the ability to live comfortably in their country. “To do this, we have to fight and defeat terrorists, and to do this, we all have to fight this threat together.”