Mon, Jun 08, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Tsipras to meet with Hollande, Merkel

LAST STAND?Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Greek voters were urging Athens not to ‘succumb to the irrational, blackmailing demands of our creditors’


A woman rests at Athens’ closed central fish market yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande again to discuss a financial lifeline as his minister of finance joined him in rejecting a new creditor offer.

Tsipras spoke with his counterparts on Saturday night and they agreed to converge in Brussels on Wednesday on the sidelines of a summit, said a Greek government official who asked not to be named in line with policy.

The call took place hours after Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis said the most recent offer would exacerbate Greece’s economic plight and urged creditors to consider debt relief instead.

“As finance minister, I will refuse to put my signature on a deal” such as the one that is being proposed, Varoufakis told Proto Thema newspaper.

“We will not sign a deal that extends this self-feeding crisis of the last five years,” he added.

His comments came a day after Tsipras decried the “clearly unrealistic” demands being made, even as he said that the two sides were closer to a deal.

A Greek plan, submitted at about the same time, is still on the table and awaiting feedback, a Greek government official said by e-mail on Saturday, asking not to be identified in line with policy.

As the two sides dig in and extend a four-month standoff, Greece is hurtling toward a default. The government needs to seal an agreement or get another extension before the eurozone’s bailout of the Mediterranean nation expires on June 30 to be able to meet payment on its about 313 billion euros (US$347.8 billion) of debt.

Varoufakis said that what is needed is “a debt restructuring that will make Greek debt sustainable, without a cost for the creditors.”

He said cutting pensions was “not a reform” and what is instead needed is an investment plan.

Frustration is growing.

After listening to Tsipras address legislators on Friday night, Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Kazimir said he wondered “whether this is the same Tsipras who was in Brussels and Berlin this week.”

Kazimir, who commented on his social media account, said “debt restructuring is not on the table.”

Tsipras asked for a call with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Saturday, according to a commission spokeswoman who asked not to be named in line with policy.

Juncker and Tsipras are to stay in contact in coming days, she said, declining to comment on whether a call had been turned down.

In a sign of how little maneuvering room there is, Greece on Thursday notified the IMF that a 300 million euro payment due on Friday last week would be deferred and bundled with three more payments at the end of the month.

The move was a 180-degree turn by the Greek government and caught many by surprise. While bundling the transfers is permitted under IMF rules, the deviation from standard practice adds to signs that Greece might be preparing for a potential breakdown of talks after a prolonged impasse.

“Tsipras has his back against the wall,” said Miranda Xafa, a former Greek representative to the IMF who runs a consultancy in Athens. “If a deal is not reached next week, in time for parliamentary approval of the deal, we are staring at disorderly default, deposit withdrawals, capital controls, and social unrest. I think a deal is in the making.”

Tsipras on Friday said voters are urging the government not to “succumb to the irrational, blackmailing demands of our creditors.”

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