Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States “unequivocally” supports the economic recovery plan of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. Clinton held talks with top Greek officials in Athens in advance of a critical European meeting Thursday on a second financial bailout for Greece.
The United States will have no role in the bailout decision, to be made by the 17 key “Eurozone” countries of the European Union.
But Clinton delivered a strong message of political backing, saying she was pleased to be in Athens in what she termed “challenging times” to demonstrate the United States’ “unequivocally strong support” for NATO ally Greece.
The Secretary of State said the Papandreou government’s new round of austerity measures and tax hikes are strong medicine and difficult therapy for Greek citizens, but said the United States has every confidence of an eventual economic rebound.
“I have faith in the resilience of the Greek people. And I applaud the Greek government on its willingness to take these difficult steps. Greece has inspired the world before and I have every confidence that you are doing so again. And as you do what you must to bring your economy back to health, you will have the full support of the United States,” said the US top diplomat.
Clinton spoke at a press event with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis, newly installed after the recent Greek Cabinet shakeup.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said that while many on both sides of the Atlantic have “bet on the collapse of Greece” the Papandreou government will prove them wrong.
“Despite the doomsayers, we are proceeding and we shall come out of this victorious. Of course we have no magic solutions. But there is no question the sacrifices that the Greek people have made have not only done away with the very real past risk of default, but will create a sound basis for recovery.”
The Greek foreign minister said his country needs not only U.S. but European solidarity, a message he said was lost on some E.U. member states in recent months.
A senior U.S. official said while not diminishing the severity of Greece’s problems, that country represents only about three percent of the E.U. economy, and the Greek problem is not of a magnitude the European Union cannot deal with.
Clinton’s talks here also focused on the Middle East political turmoil, Balkan stability, Greek-Turkish relations, and Cyprus.
Clinton said Saturday the United States would like to see a Cyprus settlement before the island state is to assume the E.U. presidency for the first time next year.
The Greek foreign minister said he thinks progress is possible, but that it mainly requires political will on the part of the Turkish government.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in response to a coup in Nicosia aimed at a union with Greece.
The senior U.S. official said he is encouraged by the fact that Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have held more than 80 face-to-face meetings during the past two years. He said they are “close” to an agreement, but that being close is not sufficient.