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Greek Crisis Dominates G20 Talks


U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk at the G20 summit in Cannes, France, November 3, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk at the G20 summit in Cannes, France, November 3, 2011

White House officials say Europe's agreed plan for solving its debt problem should stay on track, regardless of the political turmoil in Greece. President Barack Obama has been meeting with European leaders to look for ways to solve the financial crisis at the G20 summit in the French resort city of Cannes.

Obama's meetings on the situation began almost immediately after he arrived in France.

The president talked with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about ways to prevent the Greek debt crisis from spreading to the entire continent.

Despite reports Thursday of turmoil in Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's government, White House officials called for Europe's debt relief plan to continue.

Papandreou surprised financial markets this week when he called for a public vote on a deal the European Union had reached days earlier. Under the plan, Greece's debt would be cut nearly in half, if the government adopts drastic spending cuts.

Officials in the Greek prime minister's office denied that he was about to resign as a result of the controversy.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Obama, told reporters in Cannes the political upheaval in Athens should not prevent the EU plan from going forward.

“What needs to be done, as it relates to Greece, what needs to be done, as it relates to stabilizing the eurozone, was outlined last week, and those steps are going to need to be taken, going forward, irrespective of where we are at any given moment in a country's politics," said Rhodes.

White House officials have said repeatedly that Obama's main priority in Cannes is to help Europe move toward a solution. The president reinforced that point after meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy.

“The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe," said President Obama. "President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue. I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution."

But Obama said more information is needed about how the initiative would proceed.

“Here at the G20, we are going to have to flesh out more of the details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented," he said.

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