Lew calls for debt relief

US of­fi­cial, in Athens to­day, says Turk­ish tur­moil strength­ens case for sup­port

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The visit to Athens to­day by US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew – par­tic­u­larly in light of his claims that the tur­moil in neigh­bor­ing Turkey strength­ens Greece’s case for debt relief – is be­ing viewed by the Greek gov­ern­ment as an op­por­tu­nity to high­light the sig­nif­i­cance of the coun­try’s geostrate­gic po­si­tion in its talks with cred­i­tors.

Wash­ing­ton has long ar­gued in fa­vor of light­en­ing Greece’s debt load. And Lew’s com­ments, made pub­lic yes­ter­day via an in­ter­view with the Fi­nan­cial Times, in­di­cated that the up­heaval that has fol­lowed a failed coup in Turkey con­sol­i­dates the ar­gu­ment for of­fer­ing greater sup­port to Greece.

“I would hope [the re­cent re­gional up­heaval] would change the cli­mate in which dis­cus­sions of debt relief hap­pen, just be­cause it’s the right thing to do on its own, and at a time when Greece is in a po­si­tion [of] geopo­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance that’s a good time to re­in­force their fis­cal fu­ture,” Lew told the FT.

Lew also noted that Greece’s piv­otal role as a tran­sit point for refugees head­ing to­wards Europe from Syria, Iraq and other strife-torn coun­tries had led to a re­newed fo­cus on the coun­try’s geopo­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

“You have to fix the foun­da­tion to have a strong Greece,” he said, and called on the Greek gov­ern­ment to be­come more proac­tive in im­ple­ment­ing re­forms de­manded by the coun­try’s cred­i­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to Greek gov­ern­ment sources, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras will re­fer to the May Eu­rogroup de­ci­sion on the prospects for light­en­ing Greece’s debt in his meet­ing with Lew to­day. He and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos, who is due to meet Lew this morn­ing, will both press for US sup­port in overcoming po­ten­tial ob­jec­tions by the no­to­ri­ously tough In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund to en­sure that a sec­ond re­view of Greece’s bailout is com­pleted in the fall with­out un­due de­lays.

Sources close to Tsipras in­di­cated that the pre­mier wel­comed Lew’s com­ments to the FT. The US of­fi­cial’s visit is be­ing viewed more broadly as an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote Greece as hav­ing a more sig­nif­i­cant role in the re­gion.

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