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US hails Greek economic efforts: Kerry

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Ukraine crisis after his meetings with other foreign ministers in ParisUS Secretary of State John Kerry hailed troubled Greece’s economic recovery efforts in the midst of a huge migration challenge as he paid a brief visit to Athens on Friday.

“I appreciate the way you are approaching economic reforms efforts (…) it is not easy,” Kerry told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

The leftist government of Alexis Tsipras is trying to apply an unpopular third EU economic bailout enacted in July in return for safeguarding the country’s place in the eurozone.

Kerry later said that “more effort will be needed in the months ahead, but I am confident that Greeceā€™s leaders will continue to implement the reforms necessary to restore competitiveness.

However measures facilitating foreclosures against people who cannot pay their mortgages and plans to slash the minimum monthly pension have caused two general strikes in a month, indicating Tsipras faces a rough ride despite winning reelection on the bailout programme.

Kerry also acknowledged the efforts to help refugees made by Greece, which has found itself on the front lines of the greatest migration influx facing Europe since the Second World War, and visited an Athens centre helping migrant women.

The challenges Greece faces are compounded by security fears that jihadists are entering the continent posing as refugees from war-torn Syria.

Kerry announced the United States will provide another $24 million (19.2 million euros) in assistance for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, on top of the more than $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance Washington has provided since the start of the Syrian civil war.

More than 650,000 migrants and refugees have reached the Greek islands this year the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last month.

However “the real solution to the refugee crisis in Europe is to bring the earliest possible end to the conflict in Syria,” said Kerry.

His visit of several hours to Athens was the closing leg of a regional tour that also saw stops in Cyprus, Serbia and Kosovo.


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