There was said to be dismay within the government on Wednesday that the main focus of Tuesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and US President Donald Trump was on the 2.4-billion-dollar deal struck to modernize Greece’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets.
Tsipras had gone to the US with the aim of luring American businessmen to invest in Greece. Instead the F-16 deal will create jobs in the US, at a time when Greece is cash strapped.
Moreover, after years of anti-American rhetoric and sentiment emanating from the leftist SYRIZA party, the premier appeared to be charting a different course with his use of far more endearing terms when referring to the US.
This was not lost on several SYRIZA lawmakers as the party’s parliamentary group appeared reluctant to defend Tsipras’s visit to the US and his meeting with Trump.
Nonetheless Deputy Environment Minister Sokratis Famellos cited Trump’s remarks as evidence of the “great job” the government is doing.
SYRIZA lawmaker Yiannis Theofylaktos followed suit saying that “despite our political disagreements with this particular political person (Trump), this visit was of huge importance and strengthens our country.”
Nonetheless, the government scrambled to prevent a possible backlash.
“Tsipras is the Greek prime minister and represented his country and the government in the US,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said, adding that the premier’s leftist political background was not an issue.
“He neither represents his own political background, nor the Left’s stance to American policies of previous decades,” he said.
As for the F-16 deal, Tzanakopoulos said only 1.1 billion euros would burden the Greek budget.
For its part New Democracy described the visit as a “missed opportunity” and urged the government to provide more information about the F-16 upgrade deal.
Its shadow defense minister Vassilis Kikilias said that “upgrading the operational capability of Greece’s F-16 fighter jets is imperative,” but added that contradictory remarks by government officials over the agreement suggested that the administration had approached the matter in a haphazard manner.
Meanwhile, Tsipras met yesterday with US Vice President Mike Pence and discussed problems plaguing the relationship between NATO allies Greece and Turkey as well as issues of defense and security.
The meeting came amid concern in Washington over Turkey’s foreign policy.
Tsipras reiterated that Greece backs a Western orientation for Turkey, but also expressed Athens’s dismay at Turkey’s behavior in the Aegean.
He also presented Pence with a file recording Turkish violations and overflights in the Aegean stretching back four years.