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Transcripts   /

Joint press conference with Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras

May 27, 2016, Athens

Following the Russian-Greek talks, Vladimir Putin and Alexis Tsipras made a joint statement for the press.

Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras (retranslated): I would like to welcome once again President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. President Putin’s visit today after so many years concludes a series of contacts and meetings at the highest level that took place over the last year and that mark a new beginning in our bilateral relations.

This meeting is part of the reciprocal Year of Culture between Russia and Greece, which will see a number of events held in both countries to highlight the historical bilateral relationship and to help bring our countries closer.

We had an opportunity to meet with President Putin twice in 2015 – in Moscow and St Petersburg – to lay the foundations for multi-level cooperation. A kind of cooperation that is a strategic choice for Greece. It is not only motivated by the deep cultural, spiritual and historical ties between our countries, but by being a component of any kind of Greek 21st century foreign policy in the globalised world.

Greece has firm ties in the West and in the European Union, but the country is open to the North, the Balkan countries, to the South, Africa, to the Middle East, and to the East as a whole. It promotes its cultural, diplomatic and economic presence in the region.

President Putin's visit comes at a historically important time when our country is finishing devaluation and leaving a period of uncertainty to confidently create the preconditions for reconstruction, for investment and cooperation. We have discussed our bilateral relations in this context, focusing on investment opportunities in the private and public sectors, notably in infrastructure, transport, shipbuilding and repairs, and in the food industry, tourism and pharmaceuticals, as well as the promotion of joint projects and joint ventures in the agricultural sector, in the food sector and in other industries. We stressed the importance of this by today's signing of an agreement on promoting investment in Greece and Russia, as well as by signing a regional cooperation agreement.

At the same time, we discussed the prospects of our energy cooperation in the field of natural gas, oil, electricity and renewable energy as a follow-up to a joint meeting of the interdepartmental commission held last November in Sochi. We expressed our satisfaction with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Russian Energy Institute and Greece’s Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES) as well as an agreement between Hellenic Petroleum and Rosneft.

In parallel, we considered boosting tourism and promoting alternative forms of tourism on the Russian market. Tourism is a pillar of our economy, and we have been taking coordinated steps to promote Greece as a destination for Russian tourists. We have signed a project on cooperation in tourism in the coming years.

We also discussed ways to use the dynamics being created in the culture, science, education and technology spheres due to the reciprocal Year of Culture in Russia and Greece.

In addition, we had a very constructive exchange of opinions on regional and bilateral development, and agreed to further improve our political dialogue. This initiative is particularly important given the tense atmosphere of destabilisation in the region. In this regard, we have adopted a political declaration, which defines the scope of both bilateral cooperation and political dialogue on international and regional issues of mutual interest.

We believe, as the declaration states, that reaching a new, higher level of dialogue can help promote the relations between the European Union and Russia, as well as between NATO and Russia, during this difficult period, and strengthen the European security architecture under the OSCE. At the same time, improving our political dialogue is contributing to the exchange of opinions on many issues that are very important for Greece, such as the Cyprus issue, where Greece has Russia's stable support in seeking solutions in accordance with international law and UN Security Council resolutions, solutions that give the Greek nation the opportunity to live with security, without the presence of invasive troops and dated guarantees.

We discussed the Syrian crisis, which is the main source of the refugee flow towards our country, as well as the situation in this region, a very important territory for geostrategic processes, where Russia is playing a very important, crucial role. We support the UN and the international community's active efforts, which Russia is also participating in, to establish a ceasefire and to stop attacks on civilians, as well as to resolve the issue provided that democracy and rights are respected in Syria, Iraq and North Africa.

We also had the opportunity to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. We expressed our support for promoting peace, which can be achieved only through the Minsk Agreements with a considerable presence of the OSCE in the region.

We also emphasised our country's interest in securing peace, given that tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens living in the conflict zone are of Greek descent.

I would like to once again welcome President Vladimir Putin and express confidence that during the years to come Greek-Russian cooperation will grow stronger to the benefit of our nations and to the benefit of promoting economic growth, peace and cooperation in the region. Welcome!

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the leadership of the Hellenic Republic, to all our colleagues for a warm and hearty welcome.

Jointly with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras we held substantial and detailed talks, and considered a broad spectrum of issues of the bilateral and international agendas. I would like to highlight the impressive number of documents signed as part of the visit.

We were at one in thinking that despite negative factors, Russian-Greek relations, the partnership between our countries continue to develop on a steady basis. The Year of Russia held in Greece and the Year of Greece held in Russia are outstanding examples of this.

As you remember, these cross years were launched during the talks with Mr Pavlopoulos in Moscow last January. This is a truly large-scale, inter-state project that embraces a total of 170 events in a wide variety of areas, including culture, science, education, the economy, trade, tourism and sport. The celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of Russian monastic presence on Mount Athos plays an especially important role in the cross years.

Consolidation of trade and economic ties is an important component of this extensive programme. There is certainly much work that needs to be done. Last year, our trade turnover amounted to $2.7 billion, which is 34 percent below our previous indicators. Both the EU sanctions against Russian enterprises and our counter-measures have had an impact, as well as the price drop on energy resources and fluctuations in currency exchange rates.

Jointly with our Greek partners, we outlined a number of practical steps to reverse the negative trends and enter a growth trajectory. Thessaloniki will host the 10th session of the Russian-Greek Intergovernmental Commission in September. The five working groups making it up will have to work intensively to search for new opportunities for cooperation.

I would like to thank the Greek side for granting Russia the status of an honorary guest at the Thessaloniki International Fair. We will actively contribute to this important event. On our part, we are looking forward to seeing our Greek colleagues at the upcoming economic forums in St Petersburg, Vladivostok and the Russian Far East.

There is a huge potential for expanding energy cooperation. Russia has been a major exporter of energy resources to the Greek market over the past 20 years. We cover 60 percent of Greece’s needs in gas and more than 15 percent in oil. A memorandum signed by the Russian Energy Agency and the Greek Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving will facilitate further development of bilateral cooperation in energy efficiency.

We agreed to focus attention on investment cooperation. The figures are modest here: $700 million from the Russian side, while Greek investment in the Russian economy is even more modest, amounting to $12 million. Of course, there are some reserves. I would like to remind you that there are 130 companies with Greek capital in Russia, their trade turnover amounts to $2.5 billion a year.

There is a solid foundation for broadening transport cooperation. In particular, Russian Railways is looking into investing funds in a rolling stock maintenance company and a railway operator, as well as the Thessaloniki port infrastructure.

Russian Helicopters is interested in developing cooperation with Greece in supplying military vehicles, KamAZ – in supplying trucks, United Engine Corporation, another Russian enterprise — in supplying power and gas compressor equipment.

We are determined to actively promote cooperation between Russian and Greek regions. An inter-agency memorandum in this sphere has been drafted to assist in this.

Moscow, Moscow Region and Rostov Region maintain close ties with Greek regions and municipalities. Work is currently underway to establish twin-city relations between Athens and Sochi.

Great attention was devoted to cultural and humanitarian cooperation. As part of the cross-cultural years, Athens and St Petersburg hosted outstanding exhibitions of internationally renowned works of art: gold Scythian items from the collection of Russia’s Hermitage Museum and ancient Greek sculpture from the collection of the Acropolis Museum.

The Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens has opened the exhibition of the Ascension icon by Andrei Rublev from the collection of Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery. The opening was timed to coincide with the present visit.

Renowned Russian performers, including those from the Bolshoi Theatre and the Igor Moiseyev Dance Company, will tour Greece this year.

We are thankful to the Greek leadership for their caring attitude towards memorial sites connected with Russia. I would like to express my gratitude to Piraeus authorities for granting permission to restore headstones and monuments to Russian officers and sailors who died in the late 19th century – early 20th century, in the Russian section of the city cemetery.

We discussed prospects for cooperation in education. Currently 225 Greek citizens are studying at Russian universities, 40 of them on a state-subsidised basis. We agreed on further allocation of state scholarships to Greek students.

Tourism is a very important sector for our citizens as Mr Prime Minister has just pointed out. Unfortunately, we saw a decline in the past years; however, the growth in March of this year amounted to 523 percent. This, naturally, is connected with the situation at the traditional holiday destinations for Russians – Turkey and Egypt. A significant part of Russian citizens is ready to redirect their attention to Greece. Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency reported that Greece has already taken the first place in the number of holiday bookings, and the expected number of Russian tourists amounts to around one million people. However, I believe that if the visa issues are solved promptly, this number might be three times higher.

The signed programme of joint efforts in tourism until 2018 is directed at consolidating cooperation in this sphere. We are certain that this document will serve to promote tourist exchange.

As for international issues, Mr Prime Minister has touched upon almost all the topics we discussed. I can only confirm this. We carefully examined all these issues and concluded that our positions coincide in many of them. Of course, there are some problematic items that we still have to work on.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to thank the President of the Hellenic Republic, the Prime Minister and all our Greek colleagues for a constructive and substantial exchange of opinions.

I would also like to thank all the residents of Athens for a very warm and hospitable reception. We saw this as we moved around the Greek capital. I would like to apologise for any inconveniences we might have caused, but I am sure that the agreements reached today will make a significant contribution to the development of the Russian-Greek partnership and friendship.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Question: I have a question about trade and economic cooperation, the energy dialogue and common European security.

In February, Gazprom signed a memorandum of intent with European partners on building a pipeline. The project was meant to replace the South Stream, which was curtailed due to the unproductive stance of the European Commission, not through our fault. The new pipeline to be laid across the Black Sea to deliver natural gas to Greece and further to Italy.

Will those wonderful cooperation plans be affected by possible tension caused by the anti-missile defence deployment in Europe? I mean, in particular, AMD elements’ deployment in Poland and Romania.

Alexis Tsipras: You have touched upon the energy sector, which, as you are aware, is pivotal to the economic growth of the region, including Greece. We do not conceal our strategic plans to turn Greece into an energy hub. Our geography allows us to fulfil such ambitions and gives us certain opportunities.

You mentioned the complications and difficulties we are facing due to economic and geopolitical tensions. We have clearly stated that we are open for cooperation. And we are going to use them proceeding from our national interests for enhancing cooperation and peace, not as grounds for conflict and confrontation.

As you may understand, Greece can make its contribution if the tension does not exceed our abilities and possibilities. We are striving to perform within the EU and NATO as a positive bridge of friendship and cooperation between Europe and Russia. We are trying to explain to our partners how crucial it is for the European Union to have a multilateral energy policy.

Let me also note that apart from natural gas, there are possibilities for a close cooperation in energy – renewable energy sources, oil, and all those issues have been considered today precisely because we believe that energy should serve as a cooperation bridge in the region, not a springboard for confrontation, diktat or temptation.

Vladimir Putin: As for the energy sector, and, in fact, economic cooperation in any field, this is certainly the best guarantee of securing peace because it creates conditions for interaction between people, for promoting mutual interests, and simply creates a good atmosphere for sustaining cooperation.

As you know, we were set to build the South Stream across Bulgarian territory, but we were not given the opportunity to do so. The Bulgarian Government, in fact, under pressure from the United States and the European Commission, dodged the implementation of the project. We were offered to go through Turkish territory. Let me disclose a secret: our Turkish partners stated conditions for changing the gas price from the onset, but this was not the main issue. I think we could have settled that, but we saw no support from the European Commission yet again.

We are ready to consider any project regardless of the context of political relations with any European nation, with our neighbours. However, we need preliminary guarantees; we are not going to fall for empty words about it being in our mutual interests, and we are not going to spend money on it. I would like to point out that we incurred certain costs, we had to spend funds on preliminary work, and those investments were not recouped.

Now we are planning to implement the Nord Stream 2 project. I hope nobody is going to impede us here. However, that does not mean we are no longer willing to work in southern Europe. Just recently, and this has also been mentioned here, an Italian-French company, a Greek company and Gazprom have signed a memorandum. The partners are now evaluating the prospects.

What is the impact of security-related issues on economic cooperation, in particular, the commissioning of the US anti-missile defence deployment area in Romania? What is the impact? The impact is negative, and it cannot be otherwise. Because some time ago the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Missile Defence Treaty and started what amounts to undermining the fundamentals of international security. Yet another step has been made now.

Since the early 2000s, we have been persistently repeating the same thing, like a mantra: we will have to respond to it in some way. Nobody listens to us, nobody is willing to have talks with us, we do not hear anything but platitudes, and those platitudes mainly boil down to the fact that this is not directed against Russia and does not threaten Russia’s security.

Let me remind you that initially there was talk about thwarting a threat from Iran, it was all about the Iranian nuclear programme. Where is the Iranian nuclear programme now? It no longer exists. The Unites States themselves initiated the signing of the treaty with Iran. The Iranian nuclear threat does not exist, while the US anti-missile deployment area is being created and was commissioned in Romania.

What is this? These are launch pads and radar stations. Today, 500-kilometre range Iskander land-based missiles are being deployed; in a few years they will be 1000-kilometre range missiles. We even know the approximate date when such missiles will be deployed. How can this not be a threat to us? It is a clear threat to our nuclear forces.

However, there is something else that is even worse: these compact launch pads can accommodate assault missiles with a 2,400-kilometre range, and replacing the missiles is no problem, one only has to change the software, and nobody is going to notice anything, even the Romanians. Isn’t it a threat to us? It certainly is.

That is the reason we have to respond now, and if yesterday some areas in Romania did not know what it is like to be a target, today we will have to take action to ensure our security. Let me repeat, these are response measures, a response only. We were not the first to take such steps.

The same will be done with regard to Poland. We will wait for certain actions to be taken in Poland. We are not going to do anything until we see missiles on the neighbouring territory. And we have the necessary resources. You saw, the whole world saw our capabilities in terms of medium-range sea and air based missiles. We are not violating anything, but the Iskander land-based missile systems have a brilliant record.

Incidentally, the fact that launch pads are deployed that may be charged with medium-range missiles is nothing short of erosion of the medium and short range missile treaty by our American partners. I think it is an obvious matter that requires the most careful consideration, and undoubtedly, the involvement of the parties concerned in detailed and substantial talks on these issues.

Question (re-translated): Mr President, the day before yesterday the new Turkish Government announced its intention to improve relations with Russia. Could you tell us under what conditions you will improve your relations, which deteriorated after a Russian military aircraft was downed? How can processes in Syria contribute to the creation of a Kurdish state?

A question for the Prime Minister. As expanding relations with Russia is a strategic choice, is it possible that you will vote against the extension of sanctions against Russia next week, when this issue will be considered?

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the downing of the Russian bomber. I spoke about it a number of times, and I can say it again. The Russian Aerospace Forces, our servicemen are not fighting in Syria against regular armies; they are fighting against terrorists groups.

We certainly could never have imagined that a Turkish fighter jet could strike our bomber that had no protection against fighter planes. We were not going to fight with Turkey and the Turkish army; otherwise we would have acted differently and used different means. I hope it will never come to that.

However, what happened, happened. Moreover, not only an aircraft was downed, but the pilot who ejected was shot, and according to international law, this is a war crime. We have heard explanations from the Turkish authorities, yet we have not heard any apologies and have not heard about their readiness to compensate for the damage.

We hear about their wish to restore our relations. We would also like to resume our relations, and it was not us who destroyed them. For decades, we had been doing everything to bring Russian-Turkish relations to an unprecedented level of partnership and friendship. This friendship between the Russian and Turkish peoples has reached a truly great level, and we valued it a great deal. I still have no idea why that was done.

However, apart form the wish to resume relations, something else should be done. We keep in contact with the Turkish side, the partners are communicating with us through various channels, and they know our answer. We are expecting some concrete steps from them. We have seen none so far.

As for your question about the Kurdish state, we are not involved in that issue, it is none of our business, it is the business of the Kurdish people, the business of the governments in the countries with sizable Kurdish populations.

In Syria, we are fighting terrorist organisations and preserving legitimate government structures to avoid a collapse. Otherwise, we would see a replay of the Libyan developments, or even worse, the Somalian developments.

We keep in contact on the issue with very many partners, including our American partners. We have established a regular dialogue in some adjoining countries, and we have contacts twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. The Foreign Minister keeps in constant contact; he speaks on the telephone almost on a daily basis, and special services and the Defence Ministry are also working actively. They all operate in their own way, of course, each agency has its own approach, but the process is moving forward. It must be brought to a logical conclusion, namely to the beginning of a peace process and a political settlement of problems. We will do our best to achieve that.

Alexis Tsipras: I would like to assure you that Greece is a country that honours its obligations in all international organisations, a country that is a member of the European Union and NATO, but also a country that is exceptionally advantageous to both the EU and Russia, given its traditional historical relations with Russia.

Why are we advantageous? Because, I can assure you, everyone admits that there is no imagining the future of the European continent if the EU pits itself against Russia. Greece is a country that is advantageous because it can serve as a bridge to cooperation and friendship. Our role – of course, in all international organisations we are a part of and where we honour our obligations – is to help smooth out sharp corners of conflict and help find the basis for rapprochement between the EU and Russia. I have to note – and you know this well enough – that since I became the Prime Minister, I have always emphasised this point.

I – as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs – have repeatedly noted that the vicious circle of militarisation, resuming Cold War rhetoric and renewing sanctions are not solutions. The only solution is dialogue.

And, of course, as regards Ukraine, we place special emphasis on preserving peace and stability in the region based on the Minsk Agreements, and, as I have already noted, this is of particular importance given the fact that tens of thousands of Ukrainians are of Greek descent.

We also express in the most official manner our strategic conviction that there can be no security architecture in Europe without Russia taking part in the process.

This is our stance and our position, the basis we act on in all international organisations we are a member of.

Question: The European Union is currently debating the issue of extending sanctions against Russia. How much was this topic discussed at your talks today?

Do you think the exchange of Savchenko for our guys will have a positive effect on the issue? If I am not mistaken, the G7’s final declaration makes lifting the sanctions contingent on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

And I beg your pardon, I can’t help asking. What do you think of Poroshenko’s statement that if he has managed to bring back Savchenko, he will also bring back Crimea and Donbass?

Vladimir Putin: The first question is about the sanctions. This is not our issue, as we did not impose the sanctions. We took retaliatory measures. As soon as our partners reverse the decisions they took, cancel restrictions against Russia, we will promptly make a similar gesture, a similar step regarding our European partners.

As to Savchenko’s exchange, return and pardon, we discussed this issue with President Poroshenko a fairly long time ago. Our first objective was to return two Russian nationals convicted by a Ukrainian court and serving a sentence in a Ukrainian penitentiary. That’s number one.

Second. I could not have taken this decision without knowing the opinion on this issue of our killed journalists’ families. President Poroshenko’s envoy Viktor Medvedchuk met with them. After he met with the relatives of our killed journalists, the widow and the sister (the closest relative of one of the victims) wrote to me with a request to pardon Savchenko.

Actually, this was the key, the most crucial aspect. It has nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements because they speak of persons detained in Donbass and in Ukraine after they were removed from Donbass. However, we are also actively engaged in that, by the way, through the mediation of Mr Medvedchuk.

Much has been done, but a great deal still remains, and I hope it will all be completed. I personally think that this work should be completed, and all the people who are being detained by the Ukrainian side and by the Donbass side should be released. However, let me repeat, this is a difficult process involving reciprocal claims and finding out who is being detained where and why.

Regarding the return of Donbas or, as you said, Crimea. The issue of Donbass may be settled, and Mr Prime Minister has mentioned this now, exclusively under the Minsk Agreements, which have a political component as the key.

First. Amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution should be made in accordance with the Minsk Agreements. They have to do with decentralisation, as they like to say in Ukraine. By the way, the Greek experience could be used in this respect. The current President here used to be a Minister of Decentralisation, he was Minister of the Interior and Decentralisation. They used to ponder the issue here, in Greece.

Second. A law on amnesty should be passed. How can elections be held, how can people be re-integrated into state structures, the state, if they are prosecuted? This is also stipulated in the Minsk Agreements.

Finally, a law should be enacted on the special status of Donbass. These decisions should not be put off under the pretext that someone is shooting at someone in the delimitation zone. If there is no will to pursue political change, there will always be someone to fire a shot, and someone to return it. This will go on infinitely until political decisions are made. A law on elections should be passed, of course, and the elections should be supervised by the OSCE.

As for Crimea, we believe the issue has been closed for good. This is a historical decision of the people living in Crimea, and Russia will never discuss the issue with anyone. A Russian saying comes to mind, God grant, your calf would eat up our wolf. So let us not come back to the issue again.

Question (re-translated): The question regarding dialogue is for both leaders. I would like to hear some examples illustrating the substance of the dialogue. Do you think raising Greece’s role and quality may contribute to such issues as peace in Syria, Europe-Russia relations and Russia’s relations with Turkey? Do you expect the bilateral relations to become stronger through such dialogue?

Alexis Tsipras: I believe that dialogue and the strengthening of relations and economic cooperation are different things but hold equal importance. Today, we have confirmed our political dialogue at the highest level and have adopted specific steps by signing a memorandum on cooperation, as you saw. ”Memorandum“ is not the most pleasant word for the Greek public, but we are proving that along with negative memorandums there are also positive ones.

Dialogue can be particularly important for exchanging opinions, but, as you know, Russia plays a very important, crucial role in a wide range of issues that are of particular importance for Greece, as well as for the region as a whole.

As regards the Syrian issue, as you all know, the conflict has directly resulted in an unprecedented refugee crisis. Greece was in fact the first country that took in refugees arriving in Europe from Turkey.

The relations between the EU and Russia are very important, and so are the relations between NATO and Russia. We hope that strengthening this dialogue and raising it to a higher level will play a major role in promoting the relations between the EU and Russia, and NATO and Russia.

As regards economic cooperation – as I have already noted, this is an exceptionally important issue for our country, particularly in the present situation. While receiving President Putin today, I spoke of the situation as a transitional period. We will turn the page. We are making a transition from a years-long economic crisis and a state of uncertainty to a period of stability and return to positive indicators of economic and political development, which gives us an opportunity to build our relations on a firmer basis. In such a situation, economic partnership is of special importance because what Greece needs today is strategic investments, and today we have spoken with President Putin about strategic importance for Greece and Russia, along with trade relations and tourism.

We would like to see a large number of tourists, and we are ready to welcome over one million Russian tourists this year. We want tourism from Russia to increase as we are aware of the deep feeling of friendship and mutual understanding between our nations, the nations of Greece and Russia, which have endured periods highly critical for our common history since the dawn of time.

We are making every effort to overcome the challenges we are facing. We have changed the visa requirements, and I am personally involved in this. The Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs will visit Moscow during the next several days to hasten the process. We have discussed with President Putin the possibility of considering other ways to resolve this issue.

In the agricultural sector and the energy industry, we are promoting cooperation with the help of joint enterprises. Economic cooperation is crucial during this important and critical period.

We would be very glad to see Russian enterprises or enterprises with Russian interests take part in international bids. We promise that the procedures will be objective, without technical barriers and biased attitudes, with everyone on equal footing. In this regard, I believe that bringing dialogue to a new level is very important, and economic cooperation is very significant for the Greek economy and the country as a whole during this transitional period. I think your visit is very important at this period of time.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the possible effect, or what we can expect from Greece in our dialogue with the European Union and Turkey in solving the Syrian problem.

First of all, I can say that we are perfectly aware of what kind of world we live in, and Greece itself is in a difficult situation. The Prime Minister has to make some very tough decisions, decisions that I believe are necessary but very difficult. We do not expect Greece to repeat the Labours of Hercules, and Greece is unlikely to clean the Augean stables of European bureaucracy.

Yet Greece is the motherland of outstanding thinkers and schools of philosophy. I heard they found Aristotle’s grave here recently. In this regard, we certainly believe that, given our very warm relations going back many centuries, this is a good foundation for Russian-Greek relations. And we think that Greece can certainly contribute to and influence decision-making in the European Union and with the neighbours, especially if it initiates and creates conditions for implementing large regional projects. Of course, such joint work always lays the groundwork for solving other issues, including fairly complicated ones in other areas and fields, including politics and security.

Regarding Syria. What do we need to do to prevent the flow of refugees to Europe? We should, firstly, create conditions for the people living there – the Syrians, Iraqis and Libyans – so that they could live normally at home. This is key. Otherwise, the refugee problem cannot be solved. It will only grow worse. Africa is big, and you cannot hold back the whole of Africa.

What should we do for that? We must defeat the terrorists. And this can only be done by joint efforts. I said this as I spoke at the anniversary session of the United Nations General Assembly. This applies to Russia and the regional nations, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran and the United States, and of course, Europe.

We must do this together but we can only do it when we realise the danger terrorism poses to all of us, and when we are able to overcome the contradictions separating us. But this will have to be done some day.

Thank you.

May 27, 2016, Athens