Addressing a joint press conference at the White House with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump hailed Greece’s economic recovery, pointed to “immense opportunities” for investment in Greece and underlined the need for “responsible debt relief” for the country.
Trump also thanked Greece for providing support for the US military at Crete’s Souda Bay naval base and pointed to plans for boosting bilateral cooperation in several areas including the defense sector.
“Greece has always been a reliable ally and we’ve always been very reliable to them,” Trump said after referring to Greek plans to upgrade its fleet of F-16 fighter jets. The deal is worth 2.4 billion euros.
Trump hailed Greece for being one of few NATO countries spending around 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.
Tsipras, for his part, described the US as a strategic partner, adding that bilateral relations were currently the best they have been since the end of World War II.
Greece’s strategic relationship with the US is “more important than ever,” Tsipras said, adding that the aim is to attract major investments from America.
The main conservative opposition New Democracy remarked that the only “tangible outcome” of Tsipras’s visit to Washington was “an expensive deal for upgrading Greek F-16 aircraft.”
“The deal will cost the Greek economy 2.4 billion dollars, offering jobs not in Greece but in the US,” ND said. “We honestly hope that such an important opportunity for our country has not been lost,” it said.
During the press conference, Tsipras also grasped the opportunity to cast Greece as energy hub in an unstable region while insisting that the country will stand its ground in the face of difficult neighbors. “Greece is country of dialogue but will always defend its sovereign and territorial rights,” he said.
Questioned by an American reporter about his initial vehement opposition to the prospect of Trump’s election as an “evil” prospect, Tsipras was cautious in his response, noting that the two countries have common values and emphasizing the importance of establishing common ground.
Trump’s words of support for Greek debt relief came a day after International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde reiterated the Fund’s stance on the need for a lightening of the burden for Greece.
In separate statements, both Tsipras and Lagarde stressed that Greece’s current bailout review should be completed as soon as possible while underlining the need for debt relief.
In a statement released by his office, Tsipras said he hoped the IMF would play a “crucial and decisive role” in discussions on Greek debt relief.
In a statement from her office, Lagarde referred to “notable progress” in Greek reforms but also the need for more work.
“Resolute implementation of this program, together with an agreement with Greece’s European partners on debt relief, are essential to support Greece’s return to sustainable growth and a successful exit from official financing next year,” she said.