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Diplomacy

German Chancellor Merkel visits Athens in show of support for economic reforms

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has travelled to Athens in a visit seen as a show of support for the Greek government’s reform efforts. This comes a day after Greece returned to the international bond markets.

German chancellor in Athens

Chancellor Merkel used Friday's visit to the Greek capital to encourage the government there to press on with painful reforms designed to put the country back on the road to economic recovery.

While the chancellor acknowledged the fact that many Greeks continued to experience a "very, very difficult period," she also said she believed the country still had much untapped potential, particularly in the tourism and agriculture sectors.

Speaking at a meeting of young Athens entrepreneurs, where she was joined by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Merkel drew a parallel between the difficulties currently being experienced in Greece and the situation in eastern Germany after her country was reunified in 1990.

"The opportunities and the possibilities outweighed [the difficulties]," she said. "And I am sure this will be the same in Greece, despite the difficult journey."

Back to the bond markets

At a press conference following a meeting with Prime Minister Samaras later in the day, the chancellor said the fact that Greece had made a successful return to the international bond markets on Thursday, was an encouraging sign.

"I'm delighted, this exit is proof of renewed confidence in Greece," Merkel said. "We'll continue to support Greece and the Greek people... on the right path,"

Greece returned to the bond markets with a five-year debt issue that raised three billion euros. This was Greece's first bond sale since it was locked out of international markets in 2010 due to concerns about its liquidity.

Tight security

Security had been stepped up in Athens ahead of the chancellor's visit, mainly aimed at preventing anti-austerity protesters from getting anywhere near Merkel. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against the Greek government's austerity measures - which have been supported by Germany - during Merkel's last trip to Athens two years ago.

Merkel's latest trip to Athens came a day after a bomb went off outside of a Bank of Greece building in the capital, causing damage but no casualties. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

pfd/dr (dpa, AFP)

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