Greece’s Ambassador to Russia is being replaced, although the Greek government said not being recalled, as the two countries are in a deep diplomatic freeze after Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and barred two others from entering.
That was said because of meddling in a deal that anti-nationalist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Radical Left SYRIZA party reached to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) be called North Macedonia and get into NATO, which Russia did not want.
The agreement was reached with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for two decades to find a solution but resumed talks this year after a three-year break amid speculation the US wanted to FYROM into the defense alliance as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans and squeezed Tsipras to take advantage of his party’s anti-nationalist beliefs against borders.
Greek government sources told Russia’s Sputnik news site that Ambassador to Moscow Andreas Fryganas was being recalled after Russia retaliated in return for the expulsion of its diplomats, ordering two Greek diplomats out.
The replacement of Fryganas is not a hostile move against Russia and not related to the tensions, the Greek Foreign Ministry claimed when speaking to Sputnik but didn’t offer any other reason for the move otherwise.
“The Ambassador to Russia is not being recalled. There are plans to replace him … If the ambassador was recalled, the Foreign Ministry would have already issued a corresponding note and the Ambassador would have already left,” an unidentified source told Sputnik, adding that the leaking of internal document coincided with the ministry’s statement on relations with Russia, but was not related to it and that it was mere unrelated coincidence.
“It was a letter for internal use, for a very limited number of people. The Greek Foreign Ministry did not expect its leakage,” the source said.
Earlier, Greece’s Foreign Ministry lashed out at Russian retaliation for Greece expelling two Russian diplomats and barring entry to two more.
That led to Russia booting two Greek diplomats in Moscow, a cold war developing despite Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias being former Communist stalwarts who had been cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The expulsion of Greek diplomats is “arbitrary, retaliatory and not based on any evidence,” Kotzias said in a long, rambling retort to Russian actions that came after Greece booted the Russian diplomats for allegedly trying to undermine a new name with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that opened the door for that country to get into NATO, stifling Russian interests in the Balkans.
“Greece is a peace-loving country with a multidimensional, independent democratic foreign policy. As a sovereign state with a long history, it demands respect and relations based on equality from all countries. In this context, it promotes a policy of friendly coexistence also with Russia, a great country with a strong presence on the European stage,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
It added: ““Russia presently appears to be unable to understand Greek foreign policy’s principled positions. Since it began fighting as a comrade-in-arms with Turkey, providing it with a number of facilitations in the security sector, it appears to be steadily distancing itself from positions befitting the level of friendship and cooperation that has characterized Greek-Russian relations for the past 190 years. It appears not to understand that Greece has its own interests and criteria in international politics.