Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday in an effort to boost economic cooperation, investment and trade relations between the two countries.

Alexis Tsipras“Greece has long-standing ties with Russia and I am here to renew this relationship,” said Tsipras at the start of the talks.

Putin agreed, saying: “We must find a way to agree how we can move our relationship forward.”

Ahead of the talks, Tsipras, accompanied by a Greek delegation that includes veterans from World War II, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin Wall in central Moscow.

Tsipras’ controversial visit to Russia is taking place at a critical time for Greece as the government is racing against the clock to reach a bailout agreement with its international creditors by the end of April as it struggles to meet hefty debt repayment deadlines.

Despite Greece’s agreements with lenders, critics argue that the government has been slow in adopting the economic reforms that could restore the country’s growth and competitiveness.

Officials in Athens have said that bailout talks are not on the cards during talks with Putin due to Russia’s deteriorating economy and its refusal to assist long-time ally Cyprus with its own bailout.

Instead, discussions with Putin are expected to focus on energy, investment, trade, tourism and agriculture.

Amid Greece’s efforts to improve its finances, Tsipras is expected to ask the Russian president to ease restrictions on its farming exports.

Moscow imposed an import ban on EU agricultural products last year, after the bloc placed economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

But the European Commission warned Athens earlier this week not to negotiate a separate deal with Moscow, arguing that the EU should remain united on the issue.

The meeting comes as both leaders are also looking to expand cooperation in the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project.

Athens is heavily reliant on Russian energy imports and has indicated its interest in becoming a European hub for the natural gas pipeline project.

The pipeline foresees transporting Russian gas through Turkey and then on to Europe.

Putin and Tsipras are also expected to discuss ties between Russia and the European Union, which have deteriorated over the past year with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Relations have been particularly tense between Greece and its creditors since Tsipras came to power on an anti-austerity platform in January.

GNA

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