Trump welcomes Greek leader Tsipras amid Turkey tensions

Oct. 17 (UPI) — President Donald Trump will meet with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday at the White House.

The leaders will have a private meeting, followed by a working lunch and joint statements by the prime minister and president to the news media.

“The President and Prime Minister will discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues, including defense cooperation, economic investment, energy security, and the strong cultural ties that have bound Americans and Greeks together,” the White House said in a statement.

Tspiras will likely ask Trump to urge the International Monetary Fund to show flexibility to the recession-hit country. With the first steps towards recovery for Greece beginning to show, the progress of its economy largely depends on the IMF and the Trump administration’s stance on whether or not Greece’s debt should be written off.

“Up to now, the Trump administration has been content to leave the debt relief issue totally in the hands of Greece’s European creditors and the IMF,” Alex Mally, a former senior U.S. diplomat, told The Guardian. “If they can get Trump to say debt relief in public it will be a huge coup.”

Another topic of discussion could concern Turkey, a fellow NATO ally to both the United States and Greece. Both countries, though, are weathering tensions with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.

Turkey and the United States both recently imposed travel and visa restrictions on each other’s citizens, after Turkish officials arrested a U.S. consulate worker in Istanbul. The worker was suspected of being associated with a U.S.-based Turkish cleric, who Erdoğan has accused of orchestrating an attempted coup last year.

Erdoğan eventually called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. ambassador John Bass from Turkey.

“I find the lack of consultation by senior U.S. authorities with our foreign minister awkward,” the Turkish president said. “If the ambassador acted on his own, then the U.S. administration should not keep him there for a minute.”

Turkey and Greece have also dealt with their share of tensions over the island of Cyprus. Greek officials in February accused the Turkish military of violating its airspace and the Greek-controlled Cypriot Parliament passed a law the island’s Turks deemed offensive.

Tsipras said in a speech on Monday that Greece “will not accept a united Cyprus whose security is guaranteed by Turkey under the threat of military intervention,” and expressed hope that he could discuss the issue with Trump during their meeting.

Although Trump has said little to condemn Erdoğan, the timing of a meeting with Tsipras could be an important meeting for relations between both countries.

“At a point when Turkey is becoming unpredictable and even irrational at times, Greece shows the importance of commitment to values and friends,” Syriza Costas Douzinas, who chairs the Greek parliament’s committee on national defense and foreign relations, said.

The news conference is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

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