The International Monetary Fund delegation has walked away from negotiations on Greece's stalled debt talks in Brussels and flown home because of major differences with the Greek government.

Greece pressured to cut pensions further

Thursday's surprise IMF move came as the EU told Alexis Tsipras, Greece's prime minister, to stop gambling with his country's future and take the crucial decisions needed to avert a devastating default.

Earlier on Thursday, Greek officials had told Al Jazeera that they were close to reaching an interim deal.

But as occurred previously when Greek officials expressed optimism about the prospect of a deal, those hopes were quickly dashed.

"There are major differences between us in most key areas," Gerry Rice, IMF spokesperson, in Washington.

"There has been no progress in narrowing these differences recently and thus we are well away from an agreement.

"We remain engaged but the ball is very much in Greece's court right now and I understand Greek authorities are preparing some further proposals."

A Greek source told Reuters news agency that the entire Greek delegation that had been negotiating a cash-for-reform deal had also left for home on Thursday, citing continuing disagreements.


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Vicky Pryce, a UK-based economist, told Al Jazeera the gulf between the negotiating parties looks to be as wide as ever.

"The Greeks have offered a little bit more ... but fundamentally they haven't moved and, interestingly, neither have the Europeans in any big way," she said.

"What may happen, and what is the worry for everybody, is that at the end of the day the European Central Bank - which is keeping the Greek banks going - is going to say 'enough is enough'."

Greece needs a deal to unlock aid before the end of the month when it is otherwise set to default on a $1.8bn repayment to the Washington-based IMF.

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That could set off capital controls and possibly push Greece out of the eurozone, with unpredictable consequences for financial markets and the European economy.

Rice said the sticking points remained pensions, taxes and financing.

The IMF technical team had returned to the US but remained "fully engaged" with Greece.

European stocks fell after the IMF comments.

Athens stood by its assertions of recent days that all is not lost.

"The Greek delegation, as agreed, is ready to intensify deliberations in order to conclude a deal soon, even in the coming days," Gabriel Sakellaridis, Greek government spokesperson, said.

In Washington, Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said the US encouraged all sides to come to an agreement to prevent a broader default that would destabilise the global economy.

Source: Al Jazeera And Reuters