Greek FM defends expulsion of Russian diplomats

Sunday, 22 July 2018 21:11

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias went on the offensive over the weekend in the wake of an unprecedented "cold front" in Greek-Russian relations, after Athens expelled two Russian diplomats and banned another two from entering the country earlier this month.

"Our country is determined to send a message to east and west, to all of our friends and others, namely, that whoever violates the principle of sovereignty and respect towards us will face the corresponding measures," he said, in a video interview posted by the country's state-run news agency.

In uncharacteristically "undiplomatic" language, Kotzias said the "era when diplomacy was considered as acting the part of the chicken has passed; this type of diplomacy is for the chicken hoop, not for foreign policy."

Although Athens was "tip-lipped" over the expulsions, widespread press reports pointed to alleged activity by the pair of Russian diplomats in northern Greece, centering on the northeast port city of Alexandroupolis, to brew local opposition to the recently signed "Prespes Agreement" resolving the quarter-of-the-century fYRoM "name issue".

While taking a "hardline stance" initially, Kotzias softened his tone when asked about his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Moscow last week cancelled a visit by the latter to Greece in the autumn.

"Sergey Lavrov, who I consider as one of the best diplomats on the international stage, and with whom I have a friendly relationship, asked me to invite him (to Greece); to come to Greece to prepare for Mr. (Alexis) Tsipras' visit to Moscow, which they (Russians) also invited. I provided the invitation, if he wants to come he'll come; if he doesn't he doesn't, he is still welcome," Kotzias said, adding:
"If he feels he must identify with those who we expelled, or those we didn't allow into Greece, it's his right. I tried ... not to link these bad incidents with official Russia; it's Russia's issue if it wants to be linked with them or not".

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