Chancellor Angela Merkel

Merkel backs Samaras on Greece's future in face of party criticism

German chancellor says she wants Greece to 'see light at end of tunnel' in euro crisis

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will stand behind the Greek government as it struggles to overhaul the economy, rebuffing European critics who advocate Greece's exit from the euro.

Merkel, speaking at a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Berlin yesterday, said the conditions for Greece's international bailouts remain in force and she is "deeply convinced" he will make every effort to solve the country's problems. The goal of austerity measures is to help Greece reach "the light at the end of the tunnel".

"I want Greece to stay in the euro zone and that's what I'm working for," Merkel said after meeting Samaras on his first official visit to Berlin since he took power in June. "Fulfilling commitments and expectations will lead to a return of confidence in the euro zone."

Merkel's backing for Samaras and comments lamenting a rift between Germany and Greece are the strongest attempt yet to restart relations between the two main actors in the sovereign- debt crisis that is now nearly three years old. They are also a rebuke to members of her own coalition and others who question Greece's willingness to reform and call for the country to be kicked out of the 17-nation euro region.

Samaras, asked about critical comments made by a senior member of Merkel's party, said the "cacophony" of talk and speculation about Greece leaving the currency union must stop because it deters investors, undermining the task of sticking to the bailout terms.

Such "toxic statements, from wherever they come, can only do damage," he said. "Is there any businessman who will make an investment in euros to get it back in drachmas.

Merkel said she and French President Francois Hollande agree on their approach to Greece, which includes waiting for a report by Greece's international creditors due next month before making decisions on Greek requests for more time.

Samaras is due in Paris today.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Merkel in pledge to support Samaras