Putin visits Greece ahead of EU sanctions review

ATHENS:Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Greece on Friday in a visit aimed at reinforcing a relationship with one of his few friends in the European Union (EU) amid tensions with the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Friday.

The visit, Mr. Putin’s first to the EU since December, comes at a low ebb in relations between Russia and Europe over the conflict in Ukraine that broke out in 2014, with sanctions still in force against Moscow.

It also comes as Athens desperately seeks to come out of recession. Greek officials say increased trade with Russia could play a part in recovery efforts.

Divergence on sanctions

EU leaders are to discuss next month whether to renew sanctions on Russia’s banking, defence and energy sectors that expire in July.

While the sanctions are likely to be extended, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said resistance is growing within the EU to extending them, and a unanimous vote is required.

Italy and Hungary have been among the most sceptical while Poland and the Baltic states have repeatedly pressed for maintaining pressure on Moscow.

Mr. Steinmeier on Friday floated the possibility of a “step by step” reduction of sanctions but only if there is progress on ending the conflict in Ukraine.

G7 leaders in a statement warned the policy would not change until the conflict in Ukraine ends.

Greek leader Alexis Tsipras, however, criticised the sanctions policy in an interview with Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, saying the country had an independent foreign policy. He also urged Europe to cooperate with Russia, and to move away from what he branded a futile cycle of sanctions and militarisation.

Posted by on May 28, 2016. Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.