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Diplomacy

Germany's Foreign Minister Steinmeier encourages Greece to hold austerity course

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has encouraged Greece’s coalition government to press on with economic reforms. He also pledged further German support as Athens continues down this difficult path.

Following a meeting with Greece's conservative prime minister, Antonis Samaras (pictured above left), and his socialist foreign minister, Evangelos Venizelos (above right) on Friday, Steinmeier (center) said he had called on both to continue down the path of austerity to bring the country's deficit under control.

“The work that is being done here is not just being done for Greece, but for Europe. I expressed my encouragement for this,” Steinmeier said.

He also expressed his respect for their commitment to fiscal responsibility, despite the fact that this can't be expected to win them votes among many Greeks.

“Both know the political risks that this path brings for their parties. But both are just as convinced that political reform process may not be abandoned,” Steinmeier said, while adding that there were now small signs of improvement in Greece, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

On Thursday, Venizelos had expressed a similar sentiment.

"We have the largest obstacle behind us," Venizelos said.

Late last month, Prime Minister Samaris announced that Greece would not need further bailout money after its current set of international loans expired later this year.

In 2010, Greece was first awarded a bailout worth 110 billion euros ($149.5 billion) from the troika, followed by 130 billion euros in 2012, as well as a debt write-off for the private sector of more than 100 billion euros.

According to figures from Greece's statistics office Elstat, unemployment reached an all-time high of 27.8 percent in October. Greek politicians have also debated the survival of the current government after EU elections in May.

During Steinmeier's visit to Athens, a new German ambassasador to Greece was named. Peter Schoof‘s appointment still has to be approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.

The current German ambassador to Greece, Wolfgang Dold, is to return to Berlin in the summer after serving two years in Athens.

In late December, unidentified assailants fired shots at the German ambassador's residence in Athens. No one was injured in the incident. The Greek government later condemned the attack.

pfd/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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