NEWS

Greek PM eyes Merkel support

Leaders to meet on sidelines of Brussels summit on Thursday as talks drag, cash ebbs

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday in Brussels in a bid to secure a statement of political support from Berlin amid tough negotiations with creditors and dwindling finances.

The meeting, which is to take place on the sidelines of a European Union leaders’ emergency meeting on immigration, was announced in a brief statement from Tsipras’s office. The move came amid reports that negotiations taking place in Paris between Greek government officials and representatives of the creditors had made some small progress but remained far from securing a deal that could unlock crucial rescue funding.

In comments to reporters in Athens Tuesday, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he was confident an agreement would be reached soon while admitting that no breakthrough was likely at a meeting of his eurozone counterparts in Riga, Latvia, later this week.

“There will be a deal, a comprehensive agreement,” he said. “But this does not mean that there will be an agreement at Friday’s Eurogroup.” “There is clear convergence,” he added, noting however that the International Monetary Fund “was demanding the deregulation of the labor market,” which he said has already been hit hard.

A government source told Kathimerini that “ground has been covered” in talks but admitted that “the progress... is not enough for Riga.” Sources said Athens is aiming for a deal before the next scheduled Eurogroup after Riga – a meeting in Brussels on May 11 – with the possibility of an extraordinary Eurogroup toward the end of next week.

Varoufakis is expected to face a cool reception in Riga, particularly from his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has repeated warnings for Greece to push reforms and Tuesday indicated that no fresh loans will be released unless a deal is reached in the coming weeks, with June 30 being the ultimate deadline when Greece’s four-month bailout extension ends.

Other European officials also expressed concern, notably European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said he was “absolutely not satisfied with the course of talks so far.”

“There is urgent need for greater efforts on the Greek side,” he said. “The intensity of talks has increased in the past four or five days but is not yet at the maturity needed to be able to reach a quick conclusion.” He said Greece should not be abandoned but added that it cannot be supported “at any price.”

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, for his part, said a Greek eurozone exit was “not an option.”

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