Greece Will Not Stop "Syrian Express" Tankers
Over the weekend, Dimitrios Velanis, the Greek government's special advisor on Russian relations, told Russian state media that Greece will not interfere with Russian product tankers headed to and from the Syrian conflict.
A report by Reuters last week revealed that Russian-flagged tankers are carrying jet fuel to Syria in contravention of EU sanctions, and that these vessels have stopped at Greek and Cypriot ports during these voyages. In addition to these port calls, vessels using the main trade routes from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, like those on Russia's "Syrian Express" supply route, must transit Greek territorial seas in the Aegean (innocent passage).
A spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs told Reuters that the implementation of the EU restrictions lay with member states, like Greece and Cyprus. "We trust that competent authorities are complying with their obligation to ensure respect of the restrictive measures in place and to pursue any circumvention attempts," she added.
However, Velanis told RIA Novosti that he views the situation from the Russian perspective. “The sanctions put in place by the EU and by NATO do not affect Russia, since it is not a member of these organizations,” he said. “We understand that Russia‘s intervention in Syria, with its navy and air forces, needs of course to keep them going. Planes don’t fly without fuel."
Velanis cast doubt on Western assertions that Russian and Syrian bombing campaigns over Aleppo have caused excessive civilian casualties.
Velanis is an advocate for greater ties with Moscow, arguing that Russian contributions could be important to the attempt to revive the Greek economy. He told Greek daily Avgi in May that "the Greek government is doing everything to launch growth and we believe growth will include Russia.”