Operation “Big Apple”

Operation “Big Apple”

New York, September 24, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

The 71th UN General Assembly and the High Level Week was the focus of the visit of the Greek Prime Minister in New York. With all of the Leaders of the United Nations and with the participation – for the last time – of Barack Obama, one of the most important political private gatherings worldwide finished.

Alexis Tsipras, whose presence in the “Big Apple” was multidisciplinary, raised his own concerns to the global community, both for the economy and the ever increasing problem of managing refugee flows.

In his speeches, both at the UN and the Concordia Forum, he captured concerns and positions clearly, sending a clear message to the EU and the Global Community.

The global political scene, almost cut off from everyday life, tries to redefine its priorities in a transitional period for the US, due to elections, but also for the UN, with the election of a  new General Secretary.

The Greek Prime Minister’s contacts revolved around three areas: the economy, refugees and the Cyprus issue.

Tsipras has substantial political talks with Biden, Erdogan, Rouhani and Anastasiades in New York.

With the Cypriot president he reaffirmed a seamless multilevel cooperation between the two countries. In the discussion that took place on the 3rd floor of the hotel where the Prime Minister lived in New York, Anastasiadis and Tsipras, extensively discussed the issue of Cyprus and the next steps that should be taken to allow the approaching of a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus issue.

Undoubtedly the discussion was not dominated by Cyprus, but the trilateral partnerships that Cyprus and Greece have formed with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine were put on the table; these are partnerships that are beneficial at economic and geostrategic level.

In the meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden, the role to be played by the US in Greek being granted debt relief was extensively discussed as well as in the settlement of the refugee crisis and resolving the Cyprus issue. On his part, Biden confirmed the support of the US government on the debt issue and the refugee crisis, and agreed on the necessity of resolving the Cyprus problem.

The surprise in the discussion came by Biden, commenting on the Prime Minister’s words that Greece needs not words but actions, that there will be active participation of the US at all levels with actions. This was the first time the US Vice President made such a categorical comment.

According to IBNA information, the US strongly desires, before Barack Obama’s term ends, to strengthen its international role, helping in many issues globally and trying to remedy failed choices in foreign policy.

International terrorism, destabilization in many parts of the world, the refugee issue and the economic downturn, with the opening of the rich and poor divide, have alarmed the US which now hopes it can make corrections  of “safety” before Donald Trump is possibly elected.

In the meeting with Erdogan, which lasted almost two hours in a very good climate, the  substantive issues of concern to both countries were discussed: refugees and economic cooperation. It would be foolish on the part of both leaders to put additional issues on the agenda.

However, the Turkish president did not let the opportunity go to waste and asked about the eight Turkish soldiers who are believed to have taken part in the attempted coup in Turkey and have applied for asylum in Greece. Alexis Tsipras repeated the firm positions of Greece that a process based on international law must be followed.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan informed Tsipras about what happened in the coup and gifted each member of the Greek delegation a volume recording how the failed coup unfolded.

According to IBNA information, Turkey wants the agreement with the EU to remain in force and cooperation with Greece is essential. According to sources close to the Turkish Presidency, the Greek side asked for an agreement between Turkey and Greece to transfer refugees from the islands to the mainland. Something that Turks agree with. The Erdogan side expressed concern that some in Europe will try to cancel the agreement, putting the blame on Turkey or Greece, and therefore he requested the Greek Prime Minister helps to avert this.

Regarding the Cyprus issue, willingness to find a solution was confirmed from both sides, but – bar the security of both communities – the issue was not discussed in depth.

The lengthy talks closed with stocktaking of the G2G that took place in Izmir and the assessment of what has been done so far. Special emphasis was placed on the rail link and ferry line between Istanbul and Thessaloniki.

Finally, in his meeting with Iranian president Mr. Houssani, Alexis Tsipras discussed collaborations already underway after the PM’s successful visit to Tehran in depth, and there was convergence on issued relating to energy and trade cooperation.