Trump heralds $2.4bn sale of F16 fighter jets to debt-laden Greece

President says potential deal will generate thousands of US jobs as he praises Greece’s economic recovery during visit by Alexis Tsipras to White House.

President Donald Trump reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Greece’s economic recovery at the White House on Tuesday, a meeting that allowed the country’s prime minister to brush aside rough comments he made about Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Trump, with prime minister Alexis Tsipras, said Greece had “gone through a lot” during its extended period of economic hardships but vowed that the US would remain steadfast as the country executes its debt-relief plan.

“The American people stand with the Greek people as they recover from the economic crisis that recently afflicted their nation,” Trump said alongside Tsipras in the rose garden. He added: “A strong and flourishing Greece provides immense opportunity for American trade, investment and job creation.”

Greece has relied on international bailouts since 2010 to address hardships during the recent economic recession. In exchange, the country imposed painful spending cuts, tax hikes and reforms.

Eurozone officials have said Greece and its European creditors are on a good path to completing bailout talks with a view to a “clean exit” from strict fiscal supervision.

During a joint news conference, Tsipras was asked about his stinging statement about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, when the left-leaning Greek leader warned that Trump represented an “evil” set of ideas.

Tsipras smiled and laughed after he was asked about his comments, prompting Trump to joke: “I wish I knew that before my speech.”

The talks focused heavily on economic ties, energy and defence. Tsipras said his country had made economic strides and is “leaving behind the economic model that led to the crisis”.

Trump, for his part, noted that Greece was among the Nato members that spends at least 2% of its gross domestic product on the military, a key demand for the US president. He also cited a potential $2.4bn (£1.8bn) sale of aircraft to Greece to upgrade its F-16 fighters, which he said would generate thousands of US jobs.

Greece is emerging from an eight-year financial crisis, with the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and others predicting a return to growth this year. With large privatisation items still on the government agenda and a gradual return to bond markets planned over the next year, Greece is keen to attract US investors.

The meeting allowed both leaders to set aside the past. Trump tweeted in 2012 that Greece should get out of the euro and go back to its own currency, adding: “They are just wasting time.” But this time he praised Greece’s efforts to recover: “They’re doing a terrific job of coming back.”

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