Putin-Tsipras meeting on December 7 to end difficult span in relations, says Kremlin aide

MOSCOW, December 4./TASS/. Moscow expects that a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Moscow on December 7 will end a difficult period in bilateral relations resulting from a diplomatic row, Putin’s Aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.

“This visit is of specific nature, as it is aimed at bringing an end to a turbulent period in the development of our bilateral relations,” Ushakov said. “I am speaking about the expulsion of staff members of our embassy in Athens, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank as well as the entry ban Greece slapped on two our former diplomats,” Ushakov explained.

He said the situation was unusual for relations between the countries. “These developments trigger concerns as we haven’t seen such setbacks in our relations since long,” he added.

Ushakov called ‘especially deplorable’ the cancellation of festivities timed to mark the 25th anniversary of the treaty and friendship and cooperation and 190th anniversary of bilateral relations. He reiterated that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was to have visited Greece on these days, but the visit was cancelled.

“Thank God, the sides have now demonstrated wisdom and decided to organize a visit to Russia by Prime Minister Tsipras and thus to put an end to this unusual period in our relations,” Ushakov said. He said a session of the bilateral intergovernmental commission will be held in Moscow on December 5-6 to discuss economic, political and social issues.

Yshakov also said that the replica of a banner of a Greek infantry regiment organized in 1777 would be handed over to the Greek prime minister. Three infantry regiment banners were found in Hermitage Museum archives and a replica was made for specifically for Tsipras.

According to the Kremlin aide, relations of Russia and Greece are developing fairly well with trade growing 11% in the first nine months of this year. The flow of tourists is also growing, and more than one million Russian tourists are expected to visit Greece before the end of the year.

On July 11, the Greek Kathimerini daily reported, citing diplomatic sources, that Athens had decided to expel two Russian diplomats and ban another two from entering the country. According to the daily, Athens accused the diplomats of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs and undermining the national security of Greece. However, the same sources said that Greece was still willing to maintain good relations with Russia, facilitate friendship between the two countries’ people, as well as cooperation between the two governments.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the move would spur a tit-for-tat response. On August 6, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Greek Ambassador Andreas Friganas to hand him a note on retaliatory measures.

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