Vladimir Putin and Alexis Tsipras gave a joint news conference following Russian-Greek talks.
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Press statement and responses to media questions
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Tsipras, ladies and gentlemen,
We are pleased to welcome the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic in Moscow.
We believe that Mr Tsipras’s visit comes at a good time. We consider Greece our special partner with whom we are united by age-old bonds of friendship, common chapters of history and spiritual affinity.
This year marks the 190th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Greece and the 25th anniversary of the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement.
We have always strived to build a dialogue of partnership based on the principles of neighbourliness, respect and mutual consideration of interests.
Today’s talks with the Prime Minister were held in this vein. We discussed key issues of Russian-Greek cooperation, as well as important international matters.
Interdepartmental documents signed at the end of the visit will contribute to deepening mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in specific areas. You have just seen it.
Considerable focus is on trade and investment interaction, which shows good dynamics. Last year, bilateral trade grew by 27 percent to nearly $4 billion, adding another 11 percent in January-September. Russia’s and Greece’s reciprocal investment exceeds $700 million.
It is our common opinion that the mixed commission on economic, industrial, and scientific and technical cooperation is performing well. It met in Moscow just a few days ago, on December 5–6, just before today's talks, and was quite instrumental in preparations for these talks.
The Russian-Greek Business Council is promoting direct contacts between businesspeople of the two states. It met twice this year: in Moscow in March and in Athens in October.
A Greek delegation traditionally participates in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. We hope that next year the Greek economic authorities and business circles will send a representative delegation to St Petersburg as well.
Of course, energy is an important area of cooperation. For many years, Russia has been reliably supplying Greece with energy resources, providing more than half of the republic’s gas needs and 10 percent of its oil. At the same time, we are ready to consider the possibility of connecting Greek companies to major infrastructure projects for the delivery of Russian gas to Europe via the southern route.
The Prime Minister and I discussed expanding cooperation in innovation based on the Declaration of Partnership for Modernisation. Russian high-tech companies aim to enter the Greek market with a broad range of products and services.
Of course, we spent time on issues of cultural and humanitarian cooperation. A positive public response is generated by annually held joint cultural festivals, tours of famous artists and performance groups. In 2019, we will hold the cross Year of Language and Literature.
I would like to note that the Russian-Greek Year of Tourism ended on November 23, as part of which 50 events were held. Last year, a record number – 850,000 – of our citizens visited Greece; this is 9 percent more than in the previous year. This year, their number is expected to increase up to a million people.
We agreed to continue our support of the development of tourism and to ensure that an increasing number of Greek citizens come to our country and discover its sights. There are promising projects under development on organising cruises in the Black Sea, Baltic Sea and northern seas, and creating new resorts.
Cooperation agreements have already been signed by more than 20 cities. I want to point out positive dynamics in terms of regional cooperation. In Russia, the leaders in the number of projects of this kind being implemented are Moscow, St Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don.
When discussing international issues, prospects for further building relations between Russia and the European Union were addressed. Of course, we talked about the Cyprus settlement process.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Tsipras and all our Greek colleagues for the substantive and productive talks.
Thank you for your attention.
Question: The Prime Minister’s previous visits to Russia took place when Greece was under the memorandum (of the IMF and the EU), and everyone in Europe was focused on that. Now Greece’s role in the Eastern Mediterranean is becoming more important. Are there really any signs to substantiate this opinion?
Vladimir Putin: Greece, or the Greek people to be exact, are passing through a very difficult period in their history; we can see that. And, of course, we hope for them to overcome these difficulties as soon as possible. We closely follow the Greek government’s actions, and I can congratulate Mr Prime Minister on progressively promoting the Greek economy despite the actions of many political parties.
We have always supported the Greek people and the Greek state since the first steps of an independent Greece, and we will continue to do this regardless of whether the Greek people are enduring difficult times or are prospering.
The reason does not lie in our historical relations, spiritual closeness, etc., but we will be happy to see recent difficulties overcome because this will provide us with new opportunities to work together in the economy above all.
Perhaps you know about one of our largest investments: a Russian company working in the hotel and tourism industry is investing over 400 million or euros or dollars (I do not recall) in a project. This is a current project.
I am sure that as the economic situation stabilises, other large businesses – and Russian businesses have enormous investment potential – will act more confidently and proactively. We wish the Greek people and government success in overcoming the remaining difficulties soon.
Question: I would still like to clarify one thing. After today’s talks, is it possible to say that a not very good page has been turned in the history of relations between Moscow and Athens on the well-known story involving diplomats last summer, and now the parties are ready to once again pursue cooperation and implement joint projects?
Vladimir Putin: Concerning the page you mentioned, here is what I think is important to note.
Firstly, we initially did not agree, and I want to emphasise this now, with the basis for the expulsion of our diplomats. I can hardly imagine that any sensible person either in Greece or in Russia could think that Russia was plotting some intrigues against Greece or planning some kind of conspiracies. This is just nonsense, rubbish.
If the intelligence services have any questions to each other, which is also possible, there are many ways of resolving situations of this kind without any theatrical gestures. Hopefully, this page really has been turned. But I must tell you that this did not really hinder us in working normally and building relationships, including in the economic sphere. That is more important – the stability of the economy, of the partners themselves, the reliability and stability of the political system and guarantees of investments in large projects. We are ready to work in all areas, including the field of energy infrastructure projects.
Question: You said that you discussed energy cooperation, energy security issues at the talks. How realistic is it that one of the lines of TurkStream will pass through Greece? We all see the essentially undisguised pressure of the United States of America, the statement of presidents that such projects are not desirable. How can this pressure be resisted? This is a question to both leaders.
Vladimir Putin: Regarding energy routes. I already spoke about this, I just alluded to the fact that we are ready to go forward with major energy infrastructure projects with Greece, which also applies to the possibility of connecting Southern Europe through Greece to TurkStream.
We are discussing this with both our Turkish and Greek partners; it is quite likely. There is actually already a pipeline from Greece to Italy. The pipeline was built, but there is no gas there yet. We can think together on how to fill this route with a real product.
This is a matter that requires separate consideration, primarily from the point of view of economic feasibility for economic players, including Russian ones. But it is quite possible, we do not rule it out; moreover, we believe that it is quite realistic.