Obama arrives in Greece at start of his final foreign tour

President Barack Obama has arrived in Greece on the first stop of his final foreign tour as president.

Air Force One touched down midmorning in Athens after an overnight flight from Washington. On his first day in Greece, Obama will meet with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, plus hold a news conference with Tsipras.

On Wednesday, he’ll tour the Acropolis and give a major speech about democracy and globalization before he flies on to Berlin. From Germany, Obama will travel to Peru for an Asian economic summit before returning to Washington on Saturday.

Obama’s trip will be dominated by questions and concerns about President-elect Donald Trump. Obama is working to reassure foreign leaders the US won’t abandon its partnerships and alliance obligations despite Trump’s tough campaign rhetoric.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Tuesday said that outgoing US President Barack Obama’s visit to Greece constitutes a message that the debt-wracked nation is on its way out of the crisis.

The official, who also heads the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks, thanked Obama on “behalf of the Greek people for helping Greece in difficult times.”

Kammenos was speaking on the radio after returning from Athens International Airport, where he was part of the official delegation welcoming Obama to Greece.

The defense minister said that the US president was extremely affable and “very happy to be in Greece.”

“[President Obama] said that it was his personal choice to visit our country, the country of democracy, in his words,” Kammenos said, adding that he expects the outgoing US president’s visit to “help [Greece] on many levels.”

Greece’s leftist-led government sees the outgoing US president’s visit as an opportunity to gain his public support on a range of issues, including its key demand for debt relief, the Cyprus peace talks and his endorsement of Greece’s role in the wider region.

Opposition New Democracy on Tuesday hailed the arrival to Greece of Barack Obama, as the outgoing US president starts a farewell tour of Europe and Latin America with a two-day visit to Athens.

“New Democracy welcomes President Obama and looks forward to a visit that will be useful and productive for Greek interests,” the conservative party said in an announcement.

“For New Democracy, ties of mutual cooperation with the United States of America constitute a fundamental part of our national strategy,” the announcement said. “New Democracy did not just discover America today, but exercises policy on the basis of enduring national interests and the country’s strategic orientation.”

AP/eKathimerini

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