Obama aiming to make lasting impression with Athens speech

Obama aiming to make lasting impression with Athens speech

US President Barack Obama is planning to deliver what American officials have described to Kathimerini as a “legacy speech” when he visits Athens on November 15.

Although the details of the president’s trip have not been finalized, officials in Washington indicated that Obama intends to make a statement that resonates when he comes to Greece. One official likened it to the historic speech delivered by John F. Kennedy when he visited Berlin in 1962.

Obama is expected to make extensive references to democracy and how it has endured in Greece despite its recent problems. The US president is also due to highlight the need for Athens to receive debt relief and for the Greek government to persist with structural reforms. Obama is expected to tread carefully on the issue of debt so that his comments do not appear as an attack on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he considers an important partner and who he will be visiting after his trip to Athens.

Sources said that the American president’s speech will also contain a message for Turkey.

Obama wants to draw attention to the refugee crisis during his visit to Greece but due to security concerns a visit to the island of Lesvos has been ruled out. There is, however, a possibility that he will visit a refugee camp in Attica.

It is not yet known who will accompany the American leader on his visit but the impression is that First Lady Michelle Obama will not accompany him on the trip. There has been no final decision on whether Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will also travel to Athens. It is considered likely that Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein will be part of the team that will fly to Greece from Washington.

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