Tsipras draws line under diplomat spat on Moscow visit

Moscow (AFP) –


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday drew a line under a row in the summer that saw Athens expel Russian diplomats, following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We need to look forward... this case is over," Tsipras told journalists after two hours of talks with Putin at the Kremlin.

The Russian president repeated denials that Moscow had been attempting to meddle in Greece's relations with Macedonia, which led to the expulsions.

"I want to emphasise that we did not agree then and we do not agree now with the grounds for the expulsions of our diplomats," he said.

The leaders praised their Orthodox nations' spiritual and economic ties but did not announce any new cooperation projects.

"I suggested that we are ready to build major energy infrastructure projects with Greece," Putin said. "This includes the possibility of connecting Southern Europe via Greece to the TurkStream pipeline."

Russia's Gazprom is building the TurkStream pipeline as a new route to pump gas to Europe.

Moscow and Athens have historically close ties but these were tested in July when Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and barred two more from entry.

Russia in turn threw out two Greek diplomats and a planned visit to Greece by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in July was called off.

Macedonia's name is a sensitive issue for Athens since a northern region of Greece has the same designation.

The former Yugoslav republic held a referendum in September in which it voted to change its name to North Macedonia, after decades of discussions.

Greece said it would drop objections to the country joining NATO or the EU if it changed its name. Moscow, which has long been wary of NATO's enlargement in Eastern Europe, condemned the referendum as invalid.

Greece was one of only a few European countries not to expel Russian diplomats in the aftermath of the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in England this year.