Remarks by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the For-eign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov before their meeting

Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ statement

Dear Minister,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you in Athens, as a representative of our friend, the Russian Federation. Russians and Greeks share historic and intel-lectual ties that go back centuries. It is also a joy for me to welcome you here as you are a truly experienced diplomat, who has been active for the last decades.

It is true that we meet under turbulent circumstances and decisive moments, as my country, the Eastern Mediterranean, the South Caucasus and our wider region constitute an area where international stability is being chal-lenged.

During our talks, I will have the opportunity to inform you of the actions of neighboring Turkey, which unfortunately violates international legality, act-ing as a troublemaker, and undermines peace in sensitive spots on the map.

What really concerns me is that it does so, wrapping its aggressive actions in a religious mantle, thus making visible the peril to the peaceful coexist-ence of peoples and religions.

I believe that it is to our mutual benefit to control such provocative attitude and remind those who provoke of their true limits. Minister, Greece respects the International Law and the Treaties, as well as the rules of good neigh-borliness.

We have proven this in action, signing treaties on the delimitation of mari-time zones with Italy and Egypt. And I must tell you that I was really satisfied to have heard your recent reminder that extending territorial waters to 12 nautical miles is an inalienable, sovereign right of every state.

As we have already discussed, Greece is obviously a member of the European Union and NATO. But this fact does not prevent us, Minister, from expanding our bilateral relations with Russia. After all, the emblematic 200th anni-versary of the Greek Revolution is approaching, and your country helped in a decisive way back then.

Besides, 2021 is a “Greek-Russian Year of History” and this double celebration offers us the opportunity to reminisce on the moments that we shared in the past, but also build upon the ones that will accompany us in the future. You know that I have personally invited President Putin to come to Greece on March 25 2021, along with the President of France and Prince Charles so as to signal the participation of the three countries that played a pivotal role in supporting the fight of the Greeks’ for national independence. In fact, I watched with great interest a relevant video that circulated on social media on the importance of the Battle of Navarino.

So, once again, let me warmly welcome you to Athens. I am looking forward to our substantive discussions.

Foreign Minister Lavrov’s statement (based on the interpretation)

Dear Prime Minister. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet you, during my visit to Greece.

We really appreciate our relations, deeply rooted in History, going back cen-turies and of course the connection between our countries on the histor-ical and spiritual level. We warmly and actively support your country’s wish to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Hellenic Revolution as befits the occasion.

Today, my counterpart Nikos Dendias and I signed a joint Memorandum to hold a “Year of History” in 2021. You have already agreed on this with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A series of events is being planned and I truly hope that they will be interesting, not only for historians and archaeologists, but the wider audience in both our countries.

In a few words, we discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region, which is very important in terms of geopolitics. We agree on the need to de-escalate this tension, as quickly as possible, so that countries can move on settling their problems – of which there are not few – through direct dialogue.

This also applies to issues that fall within the context of the 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea, concerning issues that emerge between neighboring states, whose interests intersect/overlap. In these cases, there should transnational agreements to settle these differences.

This can be achieved through direct dialogue. Russia is located very close to this region. We have good and stable relations with the countries in the re-gion. If there is will, an expression of interest, by our partners, we are ready to contribute to the normalization of the situation.

I totally agree with you; any attempt to use religion in geopolitical games is very dangerous. For years now, within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, we promote initiatives for the condemnation of not just antisemitism, but also christianophobia and islamophobia. Greece also supports these causes. We share the same approach. We will promote this is-sue in the Council of Europe. It is a great pleasure to see that Greece promotes common European values in the context of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Today’s deliberations have confirmed once again – as you said – that Greece’s membership in the European Union and NATO does not impede the development of relations with Russia.

Of course, we really wish that the European Union and NATO will not be an obstacle to the development of these relations. Thank you very much.