Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov (Sochi, 24.05.2021)

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov (Sochi, 24.05.2021)“It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be welcomed today, here in Sochi, by the dear Minister, a few months after his visit to Athens, and I thank him warmly for his hospitality.

After all, here in the Black Sea region, we are in an area that has been closely linked to Greek history for 2.500 years and – as the Minister said – here lives a prosperous Greek community which I will have the opportunity to meet tomorrow in Genendzhik and Anapa.

We are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Russia for its particular contribution to the liberation of our country.

The bonds between our two countries are historic and multi-levelled. Besides, we hope to hold as many events as possible this year in the context of the Greek-Russian history year to emphasise this relationship.

Today we discussed at length the prospects of deepening our relations in various fields, building on discussions we had last autumn in Athens, but also on the contacts of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with his counterpart Mikhail Mishustin, who did us the honour to attend the events for the 200 years of our Independence.

There are great prospects in the field of the economy. In fact, we start from a very low point because, especially from the Greek side, trade has shrunk significantly in recent years. We discussed the prospects of Russian investments.

I had the opportunity to stress the enormous importance Greece attaches to tourism, as a sector that connects our countries, but also of significant economic interest. For a week now, we have stated our readiness to welcome Russians who would like to visit Greece and have been vaccinated or tested negative. However, I asked the Russian side to allow the resumption of flights between the two countries. I repeat this request in public, as I did emphatically in our private discussion with the Minister.

All bilateral issues, as well as our cooperation will be discussed again during the visit of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Russia, something we hope will happen within this year.

We also had the opportunity to discuss issues in the wider region. I informed the Minister about the talks in Geneva on the Cyprus issue, but also on the broader issues of the Eastern Mediterranean.

I underlined Greece’s will to promote an agenda and an honest dialogue with Turkey, firmly on the basis of International Law. I stressed once again the great satisfaction of the Greek side for the fact that Russia has repeatedly supported the inalienable right to the extension of our territorial waters and the fact that all disputes should be resolved on the basis of the International Law of the Sea, a position that the Minister reiterated in our discussions today.
I also expressed my appreciation for Russia’s commitment to the UN Security Council resolutions on the Cyprus issue.

I voiced my concern for the fact that Turkey is projecting itself as the successor to the Ottoman heritage, but also as the leader of Muslims everywhere, a practice that is destabilizing the broader region.

We discussed the developments in the Middle East. Russia’s contribution to promoting stability, especially as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is of paramount importance.

Finally, we had an honest and open discussion on the relations between the European Union and Russia. These relations are not at a good level and this raises a huge concern for us, because we attach great importance to them.

I would like to remind you that the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed 27 years ago, during the Greek Presidency, on the island of my origin, Corfu. By a strange circumstance, even if I had no involvement in politics then, I was present at the signing ceremony, which took place in the church of St. George.

It is the desire of the Government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis for the relationship between the EU and Russia to return to the level it was at, and not deteriorate further. We believe that Russia is an integral part of the European security architecture and plays a key role in addressing regional and global challenges.

For this reason it is necessary to maintain communication channels and the ultimate goal should be the normalization of these relations. We believe, however, that this is also in Russia’s interest, as the European Union is one of its largest trading partners and the two sides face common challenges. This was the spirit of the agreement signed in Corfu three decades ago.
Greece is a Member State of the European Union bound by its European obligations. It will continue to emphasize, however, the need to maintain and strengthen dialogue and to create conditions that will allow, in a climate of mutual respect, for the normalization and then – as a second step – for the strengthening of relations between the European Union and Russia. This is the message Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will convey to his counterparts tomorrow.

Thank you very much [in Russian], dear Minister [in English].”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ answer to a question by a Russian journalist

“Thank you for your question. I think we combine two issues that in fact are separate. Firstly, Greece certainly recognizes the certificate of those who have been vaccinated with this specific vaccine, Sputnik. Consequently, anyone who wants to enter Greece with a Sputnik vaccination certificate will not have the slightest problem. Also, in order to be clear about my answer for entering Greece, the alternative would be a test 72 hours prior to entering the country. As I stated before, Greece is ready to welcome its visitors, and there have always been many visitors from Russia.

Now, on the issue of the vaccine, Greece as you know is a member of the EU and it all depends on a decision that will be taken at a European level, which my country will immediately follow. It is obvious that Greece has every incentive to have at its disposal the wider range of vaccines possible. We have no reason or incentive not to use all possibilities to deal with COVID. However, precisely because the issue does not depend on the Hellenic Republic, I am not in the position to give you a specific timetable in this regard.”