Samaras gears up for talks with Obama in Washington

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras heads for a three-day visit to the USA next week, the highlight of which will be a meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, in the hope of further restoring Greece’s credibility as well as discussing economic and foreign policy issues with the American leader and other contacts.

Greek government sources see the meeting between Samaras and Obama as a vote of confidence from the US in Greece’s premier at a time when his coalition is under considerable pressure at home. A White House official told Kathimerini that the US government believes the Samaras government “is working very hard in challenging conditions.”

The talks come only a few days after the International Monetary Fund warned that Greece would need 11 billion euros more in bailout funding as well as a fresh round of debt relief.

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew visited Athens on July 21 and Greece’s adjustment program is certain to be one of the main topics of conversation when Samaras and Obama meet. However, diplomatic issues, especially given unrest in Turkey, Egypt and Syria, will also be high on the agenda. The topic of energy policy will also form part of the discussion. The US is said to be pleased by the recent agreement for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to carry Azeri natural gas to western Europe via Greece.

The White House source said he expects US as well as European companies to show an interest in bidding for gas monopoly DEPA after an attempt to sell the company to Russia giant Gazprom collapsed earlier this summer.

Apart from talks with Obama, Samaras will also meet United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the head of the American Jewish Committee David Harris, various hedge fund managers and Greek-American businessmen. He will also speak to the editorial boards of the Washington Post and New York Times during the trip, which will also involve him traveling to New York.

In an interview with Ta Nea newspaper on Saturday, Samaras denied that he was preparing to call elections in the fall but failed to categorically rule out the possibility.

“I do not want snap elections and I will not pursue them,” he said. “However, the fact I do not want elections does not mean I am willing to accept any kind of blackmail from any interest group. If I feel that I am being blackmailed or pressured the others will bear the responsibility for what happens.”