Russian leader Vladimir Putin has stressed the necessity of "a comprehensive approach to settlement of the Balkan problems with a view to preventing rehashing of the borders in the region and giving a timely and proper rebuff to manifestations of extremism, terrorism and separatism". The head of the Russian state said this in his interview to the Greek newspapers Eleftherotypia and To Vima on the threshold of his visit to Greece. The text of the interview was received from the press service of the president of the Russian Federation. According to Vladimir Putin, a comprehensive approach is "the essence of the Russian proposal to hold a Balkan conference with a view to building a legal basis of regional stability". "It is important to agree to adopt legally binding accords, guaranteed by the UN Security Council, on observing the generally-recognised norms of interstate relations, and thereby to simultaneously consolidate the multiethnic character of the Balkan states", he noted. "We strive to follow the road of building up mutual relations with all the countries of South-Eastern Europe", the president of Russia said. According to him, during many centuries Greece was "a kind of political, trade and economic centre of the Balkans". And today this country "continues to play the key role in the political, economic and cultural life of this region", Putin emphasized. As proof of this he cited the location of the headquarters of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, of the Agency on Reconstruction of the Balkans and of the Black Sea Bank for Trade and Development in Thessaloniki. The president of Russia also noted that "our approaches to the Balkan themes coincide to a considerable extent", and "this found confirmation not only in the course of the respective political consultations but also in a number of joint steps and initiatives". To illustrate this Putin cited the Focus international humanitarian operation which was carried out when the Kosovo conflict was in full swing. "Like Greece, Russia has a stake in eliminating the hotbeds of tension existing in the Balkans and the sources of dangerous interethnic and interstate conflicts, and in ensuring economic development of this region which is important to us. And I count on holding in Athens a frank and sincere talk of how to broaden our cooperation in this direction and how to make it maximally dynamic", Vladimir Putin concluded.
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