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Sergey Lavrov in Athens in connection with the railways and the port of Thessaloniki

30 October 2013 / 22:10:39  GRReporter
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Athens hopes that, during the first visit of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Greece and his talks with the political leadership of the country, the ice that has frozen the Greek- Russian relations for at least four years will be broken.

Russia and the large, primarily state-owned, energy and transport companies have traditionally been some of the most attractive investors due to their substantial capital resources but the cool political relations with Moscow have been largely to blame for the refusal of Russian investors to operate in Greece.


At the political level, Athens hopes for an invitation for a visit to be extended to Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras so that the contacts and cooperation between the two countries be restored at the highest level.

It remains very important for Athens to convince Moscow that it has pure intentions despite what had happened recently in connection with the procedure for the privatisation of the Greek gas companies DEPA and DESFA.

Gazprom’s interest in the Greek gas company DEPA has not declined. However, the conditions are no longer the same as the relations of the Russian energy giant with the European Union and especially with the European Commission, which has started proceedings against it, have even worsened. At the same time, the options for changing the conditions of the tender are not limitless, as is the preference of the Russian side.

The cooperation in the field of energy, however, is a very important part of the economic cooperation between the two countries.

The involvement of Russia’s railway company in the privatisation of the Greek railway company OSE is very important for Athens and it is no coincidence that Vladimir Yakunin, head of the largest railway company in the world, is accompanying Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Greece. Being an important factor in Russia and particularly fond of Greece, Vladimir Yakunin is one of the persons who are very close to Putin and who expresses Russia’s investment interests in the Greek railways TRENOSE and in the port of Thessaloniki.

Vladimir Yakunin held key positions in the Russian government for many years and has been the head of the giant Russian railways over the past seven years.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Ministers Venizelos and Lavrov will sign agreements to strengthen the cooperation on issues of mobility (to facilitate the issuance of visas for Russian citizens) as well as a Joint Declaration, expressing the will of both ministers to promote cooperation in all areas and to prepare, in the best possible way, the events associated with the announcement of 2016 as the year of Greece in Russia and as the year of Russia in Greece.

It is expected that the joint action programme for the period 2014-2016 will be completed by the end of the year as well as the educational programmes that the Russians consider as particularly important.

The meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras

During his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said, "I believe there is political will to continue our bilateral relations," recalling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements which were in the same vein.

Samaras has also raised before the Russian side the issue of reducing the price of natural gas, arguing that his request is due to the need to support the growth of the country as well as to the fact that Greece's neighbouring countries are already paying a lot less.

According to sources, Sergey Lavrov has demonstrated understanding of the issue but has stated that Gazprom alone should take the final decision.

Furthermore, Antonis Samaras has expressed gratitude to the Russian side for its support and especially for the increased flow of tourists to Greece, noting that the money of Russian tourists is "like rain for an economy which has dried up."

For its part, Lavrov has expressed satisfaction with the meeting as well as support for the government's efforts to overcome the difficulties in the economy:

"We recognize your progress and will support your efforts, both morally and practically, by intensifying the trade and economic cooperation between our countries."

Russia’s Foreign Minister has also said that the cooperation in many areas, including tourism, will improve too.

Sergey Lavrov with Greek President Karolos Papoulias

Meeting Russia’s Foreign Minister, Greek President Karolos Papoulias has also stressed the particular importance of Sergey Lavrov’ s visit to Greece.

Karolos Papoulias has stressed the development of the "poor", as he called them, commercial and economic relations between the two countries, and the opportunities for future cooperation. The Greek President has expressed his hope that they will be useful for both nations.

Karolos Papoulias has also congratulated Russia and personally Sergey Lavrov for the efforts to prevent an international conflict in connection with the crisis in Syria.

Tags: Sergey LavrovForeign ministerVisitAthensAntonis Samaras
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