Obama visit to Athens to focus on debt, refugees and Turkey

24 October 2016
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The management of Europe’s refugee crisis, the prospects for a Greek debt restructuring, the unpredictable behavior of Turkey, Greece’s role in the broader region and ongoing Cyprus peace talks are the topics expected to top the agenda of talks when US President Barack Obama visits Athens, probably on November 14, the week after he is succeeded in presidential elections.

The aim of the visit, sources say, is to express support for Greece, which US diplomats recently described as “a bulwark of stability” in a volatile region, while the cooperation between Washington and the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is described as very close.
After his visit in Athens, Obama is expected to travel on to Berlin where the refugee crisis and Greece’s debt problem are expected to be broached in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel too.

An official in Washington told Kathimerini that a visit to Greece by an American president has “huge significance.” According to the official, Obama and his administration appear to grasp, better than officials in Brussels and Berlin, that the multiple crises faced by Greece pose a threat to European stability.

The refugee crisis is an issue that Obama is said to be particularly concerned about. He recently organized an international summit on the issue on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly where Tsipras was among those to talk. The refugee problem was also discussed by Obama and Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi during the latter’s recent visit to Washington.
During his visit to Greece, Obama is expected to fly over to Lesvos, which has been on the front line of the refugee crisis, a move that is sure to highlight the problem further. Already US security officials have visited the island and inspected the spots that Obama is expected to visit, sources said.

Obama is expected to underline Washington’s support for Greek debt relief that he and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have emphasized several times, in contrast with the stance held by Berlin against debt restructuring for Greece, at least until the end of the current bailout in 2018.
The unstable state of Turkey and the revisionist declarations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also said to be of growing concern in Washington and, sources say, Greece is increasingly regarded as having a significant role to play in maintaining stability in the broader region.

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