Obama moves to reassure allies on tour of Europe

The outgoing US president has landed in Greece ahead of meetings with key European leaders

Obama moves to reassure allies on tour of Europe

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at the Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport Tuesday 15-11-2016. Image: Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP/Press Association

Barack Obama has arrived in Greece to begin his final European tour as President of the US.

The tour will aim to reassure America’s worried European allies following Donald Trump’s surprise election victory.

The President-elect has been vocal in his criticism of some of Obama’s biggest foreign policy achievements - with the deal on Iran’s nuclear programme and the Paris Climate Accord both potentially under threat from the new regime.

After visiting Greece, Obama will hold meetings with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minster Theresa May and Italian premier, Matteo Renzi.

Before setting out on the trip yesterday, Obama said he would reassure America’s allies that Trump was committed to NATO and would maintain a strong US presence in international affairs.

During the election, the Republican candidate said the US could not afford to fund NATO at its current levels and slammed key allies for not paying enough toward their own defence.

Speaking to news conference before his departure, Obama said Trump had privately, “expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships."

“One of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance."

He said he would let European leaders know that, “there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America's commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship.”

He told the press conference that unravelling international agreements like the Paris Climate Accord is no easy task.

Trump has called the Paris Accord unfair to the US and is reportedly looking for ways to back out of the deal.

Obama said the deal is an important way to encourage nations to work together and fight climate change and warned that international deals are “traditionally” carried forward across administrations.

“Particularly if once you actually examine them, they are doing good for us and binding other countries into behaviour that will help us,” he said.

The President said the deal with Iran is working and added that he doubts President-elect Trump will attempt to scrap it:

Obama was welcomed to Greece by the country’s Defence Minister, Panos Kammenos this afternoon ahead of discussions with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

A spokesman for the Greek government told Reuters the visit is expected to boost efforts to reduce the country’s national debt.

Greece signed up to a third economic bailout package of up to €86bn last year but the government believes a new long-term debt restructuring deal will be required if the country is to emerge from the worst economic downturn for generations.

"The U.S. president has repeatedly stated he wants to solve this huge issue before he leaves office," said the spokesman.

Greece has also been hard-hit by the migrant and refugee crisis, with thousands of people stranded in the country after the onward journey to central Europe was blocked by the closing of borders in the Balkans.

Amnesty International has called on the President to use his visit to “demand that wealthy countries meet their obligations and take in a significantly greater and fairer share of the world’s refugees.”

"President Obama must use his visit to shine the spotlight not only on abysmal conditions for the tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece, but also on the failure of world leaders to adequately address the wider global refugee crisis," Amnesty's Europe Director, John Dalhuisen, said in a statement.