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UPD Greece trapped between Russia and USA over flights to Syria

A diplomatic thriller between Moscow – Athens – Washington is taking place these days, after the United States asked NATO-partner Greece to ban two Russian flights to Syria via the Greek airspace. On Monday, Greece confirmed the US request however it declined to reveal its plans. “We examine the request,” Athens commented laconically.

The flights are said to carry humanitarian aid to Syria, but the USA suspects rather supply of military aid and fears that Moscow plans to vastly expand its military support for Assad’s regime.

The United States has asked Greece to ban Russian supply flights to Syria from its airspace, a Greek official said Monday, amid growing US fears that Moscow is increasing its military backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Confirming the US request a Greek foreign ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We received the (US) request on Saturday and are examining it”.

Russia has asked Greece, which is a NATO member, to permit the passage of two planes between September 1 and 24, the Greek official said.

Greece is in difficult position as to which partner it wants to satisfy, partners, nevertheless due to the economic crisis. The previous SYRIZA-led government sought to boost Greek-Russian relations with multiple visits of Greek government officials to Moscow, however the ‘warming up’ was abruptly put on ice when the government resign. It is unclear, what the snap elections results will be and if the Greek-Russian relations will be back on track.

The USA remains as strong partner not only due to NATO-bounds but also due to the influence of President Barack Obama to the International Monetary Fund.

Russia described a possible flight ban as “unfriendly action” and suggested it may seek for alternative ways via Iran or Turkey, which is also a NATO-member.

At the same time, Russia warned Greece it may also ban Greek flights via Russian FIR.

“Any country is entitled to close its airspace, but the big question is ‘Does Greece need to or not?’, because we too can do the same thing regarding their flights,” Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy head of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Duma, the lower house of parliament, was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti.

“The Russian side has never concealed the fact that it is sending military equipment to the Syrian authorities to help them fight terrorism,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP earlier on Monday, commenting on the Kerry-Lavrov phone talks.

A Russian senator told the country’s RIA Novosti state agency that if Greece closes its air space for Russian planes Moscow would find other routes.

“This is a silly move and if Greece moves to support it then it would also be unfriendly towards Russia,” senator Vladimir Dzhabarov was quoted as saying.

He suggested that Russia could turn to countries like Iran and Turkey for help.”

I have no idea what Greece’s interim Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will decide about the flights, he may want to leave the hot potato in the hands of his successor – if there is a new Greek government on September 24th.

UPDATE

Russia made the choice?

“Russia plans to use an air route to the east of Greece to transport aid into Syria, meaning the use of Greek airspace for such flights is no longer an issue,” a Greek government spokesman told Reuters later on Tuesday.

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18 comments

  1. Greece is trapped between? You are not a NATO member?
    Bulgaria refused this so called humanitarian aid, after Russia refused to get details about deliveries and refused control over content in Russian airports.

    Similar “humanitarian” aid is coming for months to Donbas from Russia. There would be end of war in Donbas may be 6 months ago or even before without this “humanitarian” aid. It is just small region without suffiecient ammunition production.

    • you think Russia will not find its way to Syria apart form these flights?

      • Giaourti Giaourtaki

        As the Russians have hurt “Western” air-space only 400 times while Turkey hurt Greek airspace in 2015 2000 times it looks easy.

      • “The way” is getting more and more difficult. Turkey is pretty adamant about the need to remove Assad from power; they would not allow transit of military assistance for him through their airspace. The Russian flights could go from Iran to Syria via Northern Iraq, provided the Iraqi Shiite government cooperates. However, they need to get to Iran first. That would require flights (if they are to stay West of the Caspian Sea) over Azerbaijan (which is close politically to Turkey) or Georgia (which lost a couple of ethnic enclaves to Russian occupation and is leaning towards the West). Then there is an option to fly East of the Caspian Sea — over Kazakhstan (Russian ally), but also over Turkmenistan (nominally neutral country). I am not certain whether flying over the Caspian Sea itself is an option.

        I am certain Russia will eventually find its way to Syria. If nothing else, arms could be shipped to Iran and/or Syria by sea. However, it is reasonable for countries in the Balkans to try to slow down the flow of arms into that country, given the immense human suffering and constant outflow of refugees streaming back to the Balkans.

        • Turkey at this point in time seems to me to be on the side of IS. They have started an all out war against the kurds, including nationalistic/islamistic riots against ordinary kurdish citizens.
          Not to meantion that there are no attempts to cut the supplies to IS much of which runs through the turkish border.

          • Giaourti Giaourtaki

            So where are the volunteers to invade Turkey and save Ephessos and Pergamon for tourism or even better Berlin to bring the Pergamon back home and away from this pirates? Turkey can’t be totally pro-ISIL simply because the Caliphate’s map looks far too similar to the map of the Ottoman empire and plays with the same old pan-Arabian fantasies already Ghadaffi tried to lead in his early years in power.

      • Did I mention something like that? But let them do it without our (EU/NATO) help.

        • Giaourti Giaourtaki

          Nope, support them and pick up in Donbass the nazionalists fighting each other and let them do their Christian duty as troops in Syria/Iraq. That’s one easy solution to have peace both in Ukraine and in Arabia.

    • There would not be a Syrian problem if it had not been created, nurtured and helped along with the able assistance of NATO and individual members…

      • ‘individual members’ like the arms industry?

        • given that the arms industry in effect does indeed run a wide variety of countries, none in the least the USA, you are indeed not too far from reality with this statement… After all, one must have testing grounds for the latest toys developed, be it a drone shooting range with live targets called Yemen, or a strategy testing area called Syria… If it goes wrong, we can always claim to be defending our Christian Heritage (Thou shall not kill and all that…)

          • wars always make some people richer

          • They do. But they also invariably make a load more people poor, destitute, homeless, etc. These are the people who pay the price for the “increased wealth” of the few. These are the people who are landing on the Greek island, whose bodies litter the sea, and who get abused over and over again by people traffickers, organised crime and politicians. They are simply pawns in the games being played by the powers of this world, which include Mutti, Francois, David, Vladimr and not in the least Barack. It is high time we, as people, stop giving credibility to those so called “leaders”. None of them are any better (or worse) than Victor Orban, they are simply less blunt and “honest” about what and how they think and do… They are all cut from the same cloth, and it’s a rag we really need to get rid of, sooner rather than later…

          • ΒΤW: i don’t think Merkel is a ‘Mutti”

          • true that, neither in reality nor figurativly speaking. this stems from a cdu election sceme designed to make her look more like an ordinary citizen.

          • Merkel kann never be Mutter Beimer then she has her heart on the wrong place (right knee or ankle)

          • “…Mutti, Francois, David, Vladimr and not in the least Barack…”
            plus Turkey, Iran, saudia arabia and the gulf states.

    • Similar “humanitarian” aid is coming for months to Donbas from Russia. There would be end of war in Donbas may be 6 months ago or even before without this “humanitarian” aid. It is just small region without suffiecient ammunition production.

      You really should do a little homework before making silly statements like this…

      The special steel needed for the newest, deadliest Russian tanks comes in it’s entirety from the Donbas area. Most Russian combat helicopters use “Zaporizhia” engines, produced in the Donbas area. Twelve types of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, along with spare parts and maintenance, come from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk. Not to mention that the Donbas area is responsible for some 20% of Ukranian gross GDP and 25% of ALL Ukranian exports…