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Merkel-Samaras: Determination to 'solve problems'; former cites key troika report

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Hope for an end to Greece's problems was beginning to emerge, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in joint statements with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at her side, after private talks in Athens on Tuesday.

"I hope and want Greece to remain in the eurozone," she emphasised, acknowledging that the country was going through difficult times, but also her conviction that it was worth staying the course and that the two sides must work to solve problems. At the same time, she underlined that this would depend on the report of the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), collectively known as the "troika", which would indicate whether Greece had met the conditions that would allow this to happen.
Merkel admitted that the Greek people, especially, were suffering and that a great deal was being asked of them, as the country struggled to regain credibility. At the same time, she noted the progress ascertained during Monday's Eurogroup meeting and said that "a large part of the distance has been covered," so that even though the journey was difficult, it is worth while for Greece to complete it".

On a practical level, she said bilateral cooperation will be reinforced and that Germany will do everything in its power on issues concerning investments, health and local administration, among others. 

Replying to questions on when Greece can expect to receive the next tranche of bailout loans, she noted that "to work in depth is more important than to be fast. We are pressing things but credibility must be regained".

"It is our common interest to regain our credibility in Europe and show that we can solve our problems. We discussed the next steps. Also, we will promote bilateral issues and boost bilateral cooperation," she said, referring to the presence of the EU Task Force in Greece and Germany's Deputy Minister Hans-Joachim Fuchtel.

The German chancellor spoke about a need for measures to boost growth alongside the austerity measures, promising that Germany will support action to enable Greece to receive money from the European Investment Fund. She also underlined that a good outcome for Greece was in Germany's "best interests"

"We have a common currency, 60 percent of Germany's exports are to Europe and 40 percent to the Eurozone. If one is not doing well, then no one is doing well. The road is tough but it leads to success. Not everything has been achieved but important steps have been made," she said.

Replying to a question put by AMNA concerning her visit, Merkel noted that she believed in face-to-face contacts between politicians as a way of coming up with new solutions to problems. "I am here to have a better view of what is happening in Greece, to understand what is happening and acquire oversight and a deep understanding of things so that I can help in finding a solution," she said.

Earlier, the Greek premier had launched a joint press conference by underlining Greece's determination to stay in the eurozone and to meet its commitments under the bailout agreements, but he also stressed that beating the recession and soaring unemployment was a key condition for success. He added that Greeks “do not ask for more money but time to get up and stand on their own two feet.”

“Greece has turned a new page. Our credibility has been restored impressively and Mrs Merkel is one of the first leaders to recognize this,” he said, adding that in his meeting with the chancellor "we ascertained sincerity, mutual understanding, solidarity and a feeling that we can overcome  ... the problems that plague Europe, as Europe is our family."

Samaras also repeatedly stressed that the Greek people, though suffering, were firmly behind the effort to stay in the eurozone and to carry out long overdue structural reforms. He noted that the chancellor had shown "complete understanding and respect" and stressed that the sacrifices would not be in vain.
"We discussed practical ways of cooperating, especially in areas such as health and local government. Greece has much to gain from German technology and knowhow. Ms Merkel expressed her decision to help Greece. In a short space of time, Greece's success will overcome the crisis and will be a success for Europe. All those betting on Greece failing and the EU being harmed will lose the wager," he stressed.

Replying to questions on whether he was confident that Greece would remain in the eurozone, Samaras replied that the "country's enemy is recession" and that Greece was only asking for "the right to fight and win". He expressed his confidence that all of the EU, united under the euro, will want to help Greece and recognised the sacrifices made by the suffering Greek people.

He also noted that Merkel's visit had helped "break the international isolation that existed as a result of our own mistakes, also. The effort is constant, over and above deadlines. Greece will succeed," he said.

The Greek prime minister and German chancellor then walked across the street to the adjacent presidential mansion, where Merkel was received by Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

Merkel arrived in Athens just after 1 p.m. (11 GMT) on Tuesday for her first visit to the east Mediterranean country since the unprecedented eurozone and economic crisis devastated Greece after October 2009.

She was greeted at the airport by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, before receiving head of state honours. They then made their way to Samaras' Maximos Mansion office for official talks, followed by a joint press conference carried live on television.

Top government ministers on hand at the airport included Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis. 

SOURCE: ATHENS NEWS AGENCY

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