Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Grushko, met with members of the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens.
Asked by Russian correspondents about the expansion of US military infrastructure in Greece, Grushko described it as a “bilateral issue of Greece whether or not it develops military relations with other countries.”
He added that “the message we convey is that, according to our view, it is necessary to exclude the involvement of the territory of a friendly country in the geopolitical game which is related to the containment of Russia.”
According to the high-ranking Russian official, the Mediterranean region “must remain a zone of peace and cooperation.”
Grushko said Moscow’s policy of “restraint” is linked with
“attacks on the regional security system in the Mediterranean, NATO’s decisions to increase the stay of its warships in its waters, the efforts to question the status of the Montreux Treaty, which for decades was a reliable guarantee of military stability.”
He also explained that the modernisation of the Bulgarian and Romanian fleets were part of a policy to contain Russia.
“This road leads to an increase in the potential of tension in this region,” noted Grushko, who was also asked about what is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean and the disputes between Greece and Turkey.
12 miles and Eastern Mediterranean
As for Greece’s right to extend its maritime territory to 12 miles, Grushko described the Russian position as “completely transparent and unchanged.”
He added that “Russia for many reasons is extremely interested in the Eastern Mediterranean not becoming a conflict zone, but remaining a field of cooperation.”
Such a conflict “would directly affect Russian security if, in addition to the existing threats and challenges, namely Syria, Libya and the Middle East, another zone of tension appeared here.”
As for the Greek-Turkish issue, he said that “we call on our partners and stakeholders to resolve their disputes through dialogue, as provided for in the 1982 Law of the Sea.”
“At the same time, states have the right to define their territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones based on the provisions of this Treaty,” he said.
“In this sense, nothing changes in Russia’s position and we convey these messages in our contacts with both our Greeks and our Turkish partners,” he added.
The Cyprus issue
In view of the new five-party consultations on the Cyprus issue, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister stated that Russia’s position remains unchanged.
He said Moscow’s position corresponds to the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, “which indicate that the solution should be based on the bi-zonal bi-communal principle.”
“In recent years, messages have been coming from many capitals that the most realistic form would be the creation of two states, either the creation of a loose federation or a confederation,” he continued.
“The closer we get to the UN + 5 consultation, the more speculation there is about how and on what basis they will be conducted,” Grushko told Russian journalists, adding that “obsolete military guarantees must be replaced by UN Security Council guarantees.”
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister described the path of sanctions chosen by the EU as “slippery.”
However he acknowledged that Greece is among those “who have expressed considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of these sanctions.”
That is why Moscow, while maintaining its views that this is an “illegal policy tool” which actually harms the EU’s interests, considers that Athens implements them as a member of NATO and the EU.
He said this “should not be seen as an obstacle to the development of relations with Greece.”
Among the areas of cooperation, Grushko named tourism as from February 8 Russia “opens” regular flights for Greek citizens (Greece has so far announced that it receives up to 500 Russian citizens per week).
He also named the prospect of certification and introduction of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine into the EU, since in Moscow’s view, “just as there are no borders for coronavirus, there should be no borders for vaccines and politics tackling the pandemic.”
The statements of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister were made to correspondents of Russian media in Athens and were broadcast by the largest Russian news agencies.
According to a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Grushko had successive meetings with Minister Nikos Dendias, Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Foreign Minister Themistoklis Demiris and the Director of the Diplomatic Office.
They discussed, among others, the Year of Greek-Russian History, as declared by both sides due to the 200th anniversary of the Revolution of 1821 and the special role Russia played in securing Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire.