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Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

A Turk­ish de­ci­sion to “fill the gap” cre­ated by Rus­sia’s ban on EU food ex­ports has pro­voked strong words from Athens, which blames Ankara for par­tic­i­pat­ing à la carte in Euro­pean pol­icy, the EU pol­icy and news site EurAc­tiv Greece re­ported.

Rus­sia Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last week banned fruit and veg­etable im­ports from the EU – and all food im­ports from the US – in re­tal­i­a­tion for Western sanc­tions against Moscow.

The move was con­sid­ered a huge blow to Greek farm­ers, as 41% of Greek ex­ports to Rus­sia con­cern agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, the news site re­ported.

Ankara re­acted to the ban by ex­tend­ing an olive branch to Moscow. The Turk­ish fi­nance min­is­ter, Ni­hat Zey­bekci, said that the on­go­ing cri­sis be­tween Rus­sia and the West was an “op­por­tu­nity” for Ankara.

“Amid a dead­lock among Rus­sia, Ukraine, EU and USA [...] we will ap­proach even more Rus­sia”, he said, adding that Ankara would draw a com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage from the Rus­sian em­bargo.

The Greek for­eign min­istry is­sued a state­ment on Satur­day say­ing that Greek farm­ers would be com­pen­sated for losses in­curred by Rus­sian sanc­tions, hint­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously that Turkey, an as­so­ciate mem­ber of the EU, was com­ply­ing se­lec­tively with Euro­pean pol­icy.

“The EU and Euroat­lantic part­ners also need to make the speedy re­al­iza­tion that we can­not have coun­tries that are can­di­dates for ac­ces­sion to the EU – coun­tries that are in fact mem­bers of the Al­liance – par­tic­i­pat­ing a la carte in Euro­pean pol­icy and ben­e­fit­ting from the cost be­ing paid by the mem­ber states”, it said.

The left­ist main op­po­si­tion Syriza op­posed the Greek govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to take part in the sanc­tions against Rus­sia and urged the Greek PM to sup­port its lo­cal ‘vic­tims’.

“Af­ter it dis­agrees with the EU mea­sures [against Rus­sia], the Greek govern­ment has to make it clear to Rus­sia that the peo­ples of Europe, and es­pe­cially in this case, the weak­est part of the farm­ers should not be vic­tims of con­flicts ex­pe­di­ency”, said Syriza MP Van­ge­lis Apos­tolou.

The head of Syriza and then can­di­date for the pres­i­dency of the EU ex­ec­u­tive, Alexis Tsipras, made his po­si­tion on the Ukrainian cri­sis clear even be­fore the EU elec­tions.

Dur­ing the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate, he ar­gued that Ukraine should be a “bridge” be­tween Rus­sia and the EU and op­posed talk of sanc­tions.

“The EU is mak­ing ex­per­i­ments again with the ma­te­ri­als of the Cold War [...] A new wound is open­ing in the heart of Europe and ahead of this threat, no threats and sanc­tions but di­a­logue and diplomacy should dom­i­nate”, he said.

Govern­ment spokes­woman Sofia Voul­tepsi, re­it­er­ated on Mon­day that Greek farm­ers would re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion for their losses but made clear that Athens would not change its for­eign pol­icy al­liances un­der pres­sure from its farm­ers.

“Peaches and nec­tarines will be com­pen­sated; Greek farm­ers will not be af­fected by the for­eign pol­icy of the Euro­pean Union”, she said, adding that it would be “ridicu­lous” for Athens to take “uni­lat­eral ac­tions” with Rus­sia, es­pe­cially as the coun­try’s Euro­pean part­ners “are hold­ing our loans and this is some­thing Rus­sian are aware of”.

Com­par­ing the Crimean is­sue with the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries in Cyprus by Turkey, she un­der­lined that such a model of “se­ces­sion” would ir­repara­bly un­der­mine the po­si­tion of Greece in Cyprus, set­ting a prece­dent for the loss of north­ern Cyprus.

“What shall we say then? We gave half of Cyprus but we saved the peaches”, she won­dered aloud.

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