Greece crunch talks resume as debt deadline looms

Greece could default on a $1.8bn payment if no deal with creditors is reached in Brussels.

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras restarted critical talks with creditors in Brussels in a frantic bid for a bailout deal to save Athens from defaulting next week and possibly crashing out of the euro.

    Difficult talks that stretched late into the night on Wednesday failed to produce a breakthrough in the five-month standoff, as cash-strapped Greece's negotiators rejected reforms demanded by its EU-IMF lenders.

    Leftist leader Tsipras began fresh talks at 07:00 GMT on Thursday with the heads of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, the three main monitors of Greece's bailout.

    The aim is to finalise a deal in time to have it approved by eurozone finance ministers meeting at 11:00 GMT and then by EU leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels on Thursday night, ahead of a June 30 IMF payment deadline.

    "Where there is a will, there is a way," Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, tweeted as he headed into the talks.

    Asian stocks slid on Thursday morning over fears of the global economic fallout from a possible default, continuing the slide by the eurozone's main markets on Wednesday.

    Greece pulls some proposals

    Discussions have become increasingly acrimonious as the deadline looms and on Wednesday Greece withdrew some of its reform proposals, apparently for the first time since negotiations began.

    Greek government sources said two were withdrawn from the list under pressure from Tsipras's left-wing Syriza party, including an unpopular increase in pensions contributions.

    The Greek side is seeking to offset the impact of the changes with other measures, sources said.

    But a European source told AFP there was "hope of an agreement between the (creditor) institutions and Greek authorities".

    Tsipras's government, elected in January, has vowed to end years of austerity imposed under two bailouts worth 240bn euros ($270bn), exacerbated by long-term recession and high unemployment.

    Its European-IMF lenders have refused to unlock the last 7.2bn euros of Greece's bailout before it expires on June 30, with Greece needing to pay a 1.5bn euro IMF loan repayment on the same day.

    Hopes of a deal had faded on Wednesday when Tsipras lashed out at creditors just minutes before meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, IMF chief Christine Lagarde and European Central Bank boss Mario Draghi.

    "This strange position maybe hides two things: either they do not want an agreement or they are serving specific interests in Greece," Tsipras said.

    The eurozone finance ministers subsequently suspended their talks on Wednesday after just one hour.

    EU President Donald Tusk warned last week of the growing risk of a "chaotic, uncontrollable Grexident" -- Greece crashing out of the euro and perhaps also the EU, which it joined in 1981.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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