Venizelos, Kerry In D.C. Meet

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Greek Foreign Minister/Deputy Prime Minister/PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos met with US Secretary of State John Kerry here for talks on concerns relating to American policy about Greece and internationally.

The talks dealt with a range of issues of national interest to Greece, which now holds the rotating European Union Presidency for six months. That includes the never-ending problem of how, or whether, to unify Cyprus, the two-decade long feud and name game battle with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Also on the table was U.S. worries about a resurgence of violence after Greece gave a furlough to a Nov. 17 terrorist convicted in six assassinations, including five officials from the American Embassy in Athens. He was serving six life sentences but walked away free while on a Christmas-New Year’s vacation from prison.

After their talks, Kerry noted Greece’s effort to recover from a crushing economic crisis. “We know that it has been very, very difficult.  Tough decisions had to be made.  It is never easy politically.  Those choices were made, and I think it is improving,” he said. He added: “Step by step, we want to continue to not only work on that, but on our superb cooperation with respect to counter-terrorism, the Balkans, the Middle East. ”

Venizelos, noting the EU Presidency, said it was  “a great opportunity for Greece to show the face of an ordinary European country, of a country beyond the crisis.  Without doubt, the main Greek national problem is the crisis, and the national reconstruction after this very tough experience of the recession and of the unemployment.”

As for foreign policy, he said: “Greece is always a factor of stability for our area, for the Western Balkans, for the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  And on this basis we serve the same values, the same views, and we have the possibility to organize our further cooperation as friends and allies.”

Venizelos also was to talk with US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew who last week visited France, Germany and Portugal for talks that focused on developing a strategy to boost the European economy. Lew visited Athens last July.