Skip to main content

Biden arrives in Greece at pivotal time

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:39 AM EST, Sun December 4, 2011
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Istanbul on Saturday.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Istanbul on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Biden will meet with top Greek officials
  • Obama has repeatedly stressed the need to resolve Greece's financial crisis
  • Greece's former prime minister tells CNN about the "magnitude" of current changes underway
  • At a stop in Turkey, Biden called for greater freedoms worldwide

(CNN) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived Sunday in Greece, as a new interim government there seeks to halt the country's economic upheaval that has had ripple effects across the globe.

Biden will meet Monday with President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who took over the troubled government weeks ago.

A former banker and European Central Bank vice president, Papademos is serving as interim prime minister and working to implement a controversial bailout package that European leaders agreed to in order to keep Greece's debt-ridden economy afloat.

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly stressed the importance of resolving Greek's financial crisis, citing its far-reaching impacts on global markets.

Biden will also meet with George Papandreou, leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, who stepped down as prime minister when Papdemos took over.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria broadcast Sunday, Papandreou said, "The magnitude of changes we are making in this country we have never done over the past 30, 40 years."

The steps ahead are aimed at creating a dynamic economy, he said, offering the optimistic assessment that Greece now has a "more sure prospect" of improving its economy.

Biden's arrival follows a visit to Turkey, where he issued a broad message, calling for increased political and social freedoms around the world.

Biden spoke at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, hosted in Istanbul, whose goal is to promote entrepreneurship and facilitate innovation and private enterprise.

The changes that are happening in the Middle East and North Africa in the so-called Arab spring will create a new creative atmosphere in those places, Biden said.

"Democratic revolutions, like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and the ones still unfolding in Syria and Yemen, are literally imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit," he said. "They aim to do more than merely change the government that is in power. They also want to end practices like authoritarianism, corruption, the stifling of free expression -- practices that make political and economic freedom impossible."

Biden arrived Thursday in Ankara to meet with leaders of the Muslim ally to discuss what his office called "the full range of bilateral, regional, and international issues."

In a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Friday, Biden addressed a number of issues regarding other countries in the region, including Iran and Syria.

According to a senior administration official, there was discussion between the leaders about Iranian influence in Iraq. Biden's view was that the Iraqis strongly reject interference by anyone, especially Iran, the official said. Biden told Gul that Iranian influence in the region was declining and that the country was becoming more isolated.

"It was a broader discussion of Iran: where it was going and the need to keep the pressure on to encourage them to change their behavior," the official said.

Biden also said he understood there was concern in the region about what might follow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the official said. Biden's view is that Assad's regime is a source of instability in Syria and poses a danger of igniting sectarian conflict inside Syria and beyond, the official said.

The top priority, according to Biden, is to stop the regime's repression on civilians and to get Assad to leave power, the official said.

Biden departs Athens Monday evening for Washington.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT