Greek PM, Cyprus leader discuss debt, energy

The progress of tough negotiations between officials of the new government in Nicosia and representatives of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund reportedly dominated talks between visiting Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens Monday ahead of a crucial summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday where EU leaders are to try to edge toward a deal for a Cyprus bailout.

Samaras used the opportunity of the newly elected Cyprus leader’s visit to call for a common European policy for the exploitation of undersea oil and gas reserves so that Cyprus and Greece can access valuable deposits.

“It is an inalienable right of Cyprus to exploit its exclusive economic zone,” Samaras said.

“There is a need for a common policy regarding exclusive economic zones because the energy reserves of member states are the energy reserves of the EU,” he added.

Samaras and Anastasiades heralded closer ties between Athens and Nicosia, with both referring to the bonds of “Hellenism” that bind the two countries.

The Cypriot leader did not confirm reports that his country is planning to ask Athens for 2 billion euros from its 48-billion-euro bank recapitalization program to support Cypriot lenders which have been hard hit by exposure to Greek debt. But sources said the issue was broached.

“We want closer cooperation with Greece,” Anastasiades said.

The Cypriot president said his administration was “determined to take all necessary measures to strengthen the state,” noting that “the crisis can be an opportunity.”

But reports suggested that Cypriot and troika officials were struggling to reach a bailout deal.

The recapitalization of Cypriot banks reportedly remains one of the thorniest issues while sources suggested that the troika is pressing for the merger of Cyprus’s three main banks.

The EU and IMF are reportedly only prepared to loan Nicosia 10 billion of an estimated 17.5 billion euros that the country requires, meaning Cyprus must find 7.5 billion euros elsewhere.

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