Tags: greece | athens | moscow | money

Athens Has Not Asked for Money From Moscow: Greek Official

Wednesday, 08 Apr 2015 07:50 AM


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras began talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday as his indebted country scrambles for funds, but officials said Athens had not asked for money from Moscow.

Greece owes billions of euros in debt and interest payments and is looking for funds after failing so far to reach a deal with its European Union and International Monetary Fund partners to unlock fresh financing.

Both leaders looked relaxed at the start of talks in the Kremlin, with Tsipras wearing no tie and Putin sitting back in his chair as he welcomed him with a handshake and a smile.

Putin could offer to lift a ban on food imports from Greece, imposed in response to EU economic sanctions over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis, or propose a discount on gas deliveries.

Some EU states are worried such deals might encourage Athens to break ranks over the sanctions but a Greek government official suggested this would not happen.

"We have not asked for financial aid," a Greek government official said before the talks in Moscow. "We want to solve our debt and financial issues... within the eurozone."

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov also said on Tuesday that there had been no aid request. Russia is not in a good position to offer aid as it faces its own economic crisis, aggravated by the sanctions, a drop in global oil prices and the ruble's decline against the U.S. dollar.

The Greek official said talks would focus on economic cooperation and bilateral investment and trade, within what he called the framework of the EU. "Greece knows what to do within the EU framework but every country also has the sovereign right to look after and improve its bilateral relations," the official said.

DECISION ON EU SANCTIONS LOOMS

Russia's agriculture minister said on Tuesday that Moscow could consider removing Greece, Hungary and Cyprus from its ban on most Western food imports, imposed in retaliation for the Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Russian business daily Kommersant also quoted a source in the Russian government as saying Moscow may also offer Greece a discount on gas deliveries and new loans.

The Kremlin gave few details of what would be discussed, but Putin may be hoping to exploit Greece's problems and Orthodox Christian links between the two countries to secure a deal giving Russia access to Greek assets.

With Russia's relations with the West at a post-Cold War low over the Ukraine conflict, and an EU decision looming on whether to extend sanctions on Russia, Moscow could benefit from differences in the EU over the sanctions.

"We want every EU country, in its choice of priorities and regional and global partners, to be guided by its own national interests and not by principles ... that are excuses to keep them all in an anti-Russian harness," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said separately in Moscow.

In Berlin, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said Germany had no reason to think Athens has softened its stance towards sanctions, adding that "so far Greece has supported all the decisions linked to sanctions and we hope that will continue to be the case."

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras began talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday as his indebted country scrambles for funds, but officials said Athens had not asked for money from Moscow.
greece, athens, moscow, money
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2015-50-08
Wednesday, 08 Apr 2015 07:50 AM
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