Tsipras stresses need for debt relief, refugee help in UN speech

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras repeated his main messages of the last few days at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday as he stressed the need for Greece’s debt to be reduced and for the country to be given assistance in dealing with the refugee crisis.

Speaking in English, Tsipras focused on these two key issues, as he has done since his visit to New York began over the weekend.

Tsipras highlighted the “devastating social cost” of the measures Greece has implemented since it signed its first bailout in 2010, as well as the deterioration of the country’s economy.

He argued that many of the austerity measures, such as cuts to wages and pensions, should not have been implemented.

The prime minister claimed that during recent negotiations with the eurozone, some of the decision makers were firmly committed to “the idea that Greece must exit the eurozone.”

He added that having agreed to a third bailout his government would attempt to focus on growth-inducing measures “to protect the most vulnerable members of society.”

Tsipras also repeated calls for debt relief, which has been a common theme of his appearances in the US, where the government is much more sympathetic to Athens’s demand on this issue than some of its European counterparts.

The Greek leader also touched on the refugee crisis, telling the audience at the UN that Greece was “taken aback” by “unprecedented migration flows,” which have brought more than 300,000 people, most of them fleeing violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Libya, to Greece’s shores.

Tsipras praised Greeks for showing “solidarity” with migrants and refugees and giving them food and shelter.

But he also slammed racism, xenophobia and force used to repel people seeking safety. In veiled criticism of some of Greece’s northern neighbors, Tsipras also suggested that fortifying borders is not the way to deal with the current crisis.

Earlier, Tsipras met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the migrant situation featured high on the list of topics they discussed.

Sources said that the Greek leader asked for Washington to urge Turkey to be more cooperative regarding the flow of refugees from its shores to eastern Aegean islands.

After these talks, in which Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias also took part, and before his appearance at the UN, Tsipras addressed a group of Greek-American businessmen, members of the Hellenic Initiative. He implored them to invest their money in Greece.

“I am here to ask you to invest in Greece,” he said. “Now is the time to do it. By investing in Greece, you become our partners in growth and prosperity.”

The prime minister assured the audience he is willing to make the necessary reforms to the tax system and public administration.

“It does not matter if we are on the left or right but to do all that we can to see Greece in a better position,” said Tsipras.

EKATHIMERINI

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