Press Availability Following Meeting With Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias

Press Availability
Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Athens, Greece
October 21, 2015

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Good evening everybody. We are just concluding a very good day of consultations with our strong NATO ally Greece. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to see Prime Minister Tsipras today, to see Foreign Minister Kotzias. We also had lunch with some prominent intellectuals, and had a chance to visit Doctors of the World, which is treating some of the refugee migrant population, and to sit there with UNHCR and IOM, and talk about the challenges that Greece is facing.

With the government today, the topics of conversation obviously were about the progress and efforts that Greece is making now to implement the economic reform program and the United States’ strong support for those efforts, about improving the climate for business and investment, American companies eager to come back to Greece and how we attract more of them.

We obviously talked about the migration and refugee challenge. I want to say, on behalf of the United States, that we are enormously impressed with Greece’s generosity, with Greece’s openness. It’s obviously a very difficult challenge that you have, and we support you and we support the European Union as you work through it. I think you know that the United States is the largest donor to the UNHCR appeal, some of that supports the work going on here in Greece, so we talked about that as well.

We also talked about energy security and the TAP pipeline; the spur that we’re talking about going from there up to Bulgaria. We are very bullish, very enthusiastic, about the role that Greece can play in European energy security. We think that there are enormous opportunities here to spur growth throughout Europe and in, Greece as well with these investment opportunities, so we talked about that in some detail.

And obviously we talked about regional issues: Cyprus, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, all of those challenges that we work on together.

Happy to take some questions.

Question: Mrs. Minister, after the meetings you had in Athens do you think that the Greek government is on track so the IMF could participate in the program and also beginning the discussion for the Greek debt?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, first of all we were very pleased to see the Parliament pass the big package of measures a couple of days ago. There’s more work to be done there as you know better than I. The IMF team, as I understand it, has just arrived to begin the next level of assessment, but things at the moment seem to be on track. There is obviously more work to be done.

The Prime Minister made clear that there is a strong commitment on behalf of the government to complete that work and to move on to the debt consultations, and we have been Greece’s partner throughout this process, and we will continue to be a strong partner moving forward.

Question: I’d like to ask you whether you can give us any details regarding the visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Kerry in Athens and what will be the agenda for these meetings?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, I’m not in a position to announce anything on behalf of the Secretary, beyond saying that he very much looks forward to visiting Athens before the end of the year. I expect that when he comes it’ll be to demonstrate our strong investment and support for this bilateral relationship, to talk about the economic issues, to talk about the regional security issues, to talk about the work we are doing together across the Mediterranean on Syria, etcetera, and he is and also very interested in the energy security opportunities here.

Question: Was the name issue between Athens and Skopje part of the discussion today?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: With both the Prime Minister and with the Foreign Minister we talked about our shared hope that we can find a solution that is acceptable so that we can move beyond this issue.

Thank you so much.