NEWS

Tsipras says new government would have until July to negotiate with creditors

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras dismissed on Friday suggestions that Athens had to complete a review of its international bailout by the end of next month, saying any government led by his SYRIZA party would have until July to negotiate with the EU and IMF.

Greece’s government had been trying to wrap up the final review under the 240-billion-euro bailout program when the inspection was put on hold because of parliamentary elections to be held on Sunday.

The bailout agreement with the EU is due to expire on February 28 and eurozone officials have suggested Greece will probably have to ask for a fresh extension to its program.

But with anti-austerity SYRIZA apparently poised to win the election, Tsipras said the European Central Bank’s plan to boost the eurozone economy by buying government bonds set the de facto time frame for the talks with Greece’s lenders.

Greece will not be eligible for the ECB program, unveiled on Thursday, until July. “Yesterday’s (ECB) announcement sets the time frame for the negotiations and this time frame is by July – the same time frame we have set – and not February 28,” Tsipras said. “I’m certain by then we will have found a viable, mutually acceptable solution.”

SYRIZA officials had already said they planned to ask for additional time beyond February to negotiate with lenders, though they have resisted the idea of asking for an extension to a bailout they strongly oppose.

SYRIZA’s poll lead over the ruling conservatives has widened in recent days, and the party has inched closer to the level needed for an outright victory.

Asked if his first meeting with a European leader would be with German Chancellor Angela Merkel – whom he has repeatedly criticized in recent years over German-led austerity imposed on Greece – Tsipras said he planned to travel to Cyprus instead.

“I don’t see Mrs Merkel as someone very different from the rest of the 28 EU leaders,” he said “The negotiation will be on a European level, where we have supporters.”

Tsipras also promised Greeks their savings would be safe if his party were to take power in the snap election. Fears of a deposit tax have partly prompted Greeks to step up withdrawals before Sunday’s vote.

“There are no thoughts on taxing deposits. Bank deposits are guaranteed,” Tsipras said.

[Reuters]