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25th Jun 2018

Spain criticises Greece on Russia

  • The Spanish FM (c) also spoke well of Russia on his own visit to Moscow (Photo: PresidenciaGVA)

Spain has criticised Greece over Russia sanctions as the EU moves toward renewing economic restrictions.

The Spanish foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said in Barcelona on Thursday (9 April) that the Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, was wrong to speak out against EU measures whe he visited Moscow earlier this week.

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"I can't share the opinion of the Greek prime minister”, he said.

"The key condition to lift the sanctions is that Russia respects international law. Respecting international law means respecting the Minsk [ceasefire] accords, stopping intervention to help the separatists in Donbas and giving up the Crimean peninsula [which Russia annexed from Ukraine]”, he added.

"Once international law is re-established, the time will come to look for a formula to end this state of latent tension between Russia and the European Union”.

Tsipras in Moscow on Wednesday (8 April) had denounced "the vicious circle" of EU sanctions and Russia counter-sanctions.

But he also linked lifting the EU measures to Minsk compliance.

Garcia-Margallo’s remarks come after his own visit to the Russian capital in March.

He said at the time the EU sanctions “are beneficial for no one” and claimed the Minsk accord was being “observed” despite Nato reports to the contrary.

His more hawkish line on Thursday comes after EU leaders at a summit later agreed to extend Russia economic measures for six months, but to take the legal step closer to their expiration date in July.

For his part, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov, who met his Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders, in Moscow, also on Thursday, said that “most” EU states oppose the extension.

“We know most EU countries aren't happy with the present situation … unfortunately, an aggressive minority there tries to speculate on the so-called principle of solidarity”, he added.

Reynders, who was in Russia in his capacity as temporary chairman of a Council of Europe cell, didn't comment on sanctions, but did promote Belgium-Russia trade.

The list of public Russia sanctions critics is includes Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, and some individuals, such as the Czech president.

Useful idiots

EU sensitivities were on display elsewhere on Thursday when Greece reacted to purported comments by Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

The Times, a British daily, reported that Ilves had called Tsipras a “useful idiot” - a Cold War term for Western, left-wing Communist sympathisers.

The report saw Greece summon the Estonian ambassador to Athens for a formal complaint.

“Such characterisations are incompatible with European political culture and the level of relations and contacts between two allies and partners such as Greece and Estonia”, the Greek foreign ministry said.

Ilves denies having used the phrase of Tsipras, however.

The Times journalist who did the interview, Roger Boyes, told Estonian media that Ilves used the term in general remarks on Russia sympathisers, with no direct reference to Tsipras.

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