President Barack Obama reiterated Washington’s promise to keeping Greece in the eurozone in a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, where they discussed Europe’s refugee crisis and the Cyprus issue.
In a statement, the White House said there was no formal meeting between the two men, noting that “there could have been a casual, unplanned interaction somewhere on the margins of the United Nations”.
Tsipras indicated that Greece’s appeal for debt relief had been received far better in New York than in Brussels, continuing his US visit, which included talks with Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The Greek government has found far more open ears [here] than in Brussels for the need for there to be a fair resolution of the crisis and a necessary reduction of the unbearable and unsustainable public debt that has accumulated all those years,” Tsipras told reporters.
He was speaking on the fifth day of an official visit to the US and following meetings with representatives of the Greek American community in New York, who he described as “the best ambassadors for Hellenism in the US, a country which plays the most significant role globally in all the crucial decisions that relate to our country’s future”.
Tsipras said Greeks have been “the victim of choices that led to the gradual erosion of the country’s national sovereignty and to the need for borrowing which resulted in the enforcement of measures which have … weakened the production base and the economy”.
The comments came just a few days before representatives of Greece’s international creditors are to return to Athens for negotiations on the prior actions that Greek authorities must legislate to secure crucial rescue loans.
In preparation for what promises to be a difficult period ahead, Tsipras has made some changes to his team of aides.
State Minister Nikos Pappas, a close associate and friend who is with Tsipras in New York, is to oversee the government’s push to draw sorely-needed investments while retaining his position as the premier’s chief of staff and monitoring the General Secretariat for Information and Communication.
Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis is to remain in his role coordinating economic and social policy but will no longer be involved in negotiations regarding debt, a task that will fall squarely in the hands of Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.
Meanwhile, back in Athens, opposition parties were critical of Tsipras’ performance on Sunday night at an event organised in New York by former US president Bill Clinton.
New Democracy’s interim leader Evangelos Meimarakis accused Tsipras of attending the event “unprepared” and took a jab at the premier over his less-than-perfect English.
“It’s not a bad thing to have an interpreter with you,” he said.
A statement by ND was harsher, accusing Tsipras of “defaming and undermining” the country after saying that investors have to pay under the table.