Furious diplomacy in efforts to bridge Greek, German division

Top European officials were engaged in furious diplomacy on Friday to build a bridge between fiercely divided Greek and German ministers whose agreement is needed to solve a bitter row over Greeces huge debt.

Sources close to Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and EU Economics Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici were meeting with the ministers separately to hammer out a deal.

“I do not have to tell you it’s quite complicated…. There is still reason for some optimism but it is very difficult,» Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister, said as officials worked to resolve the Greece-Germany stand-off before a meeting of all 19 eurozone finance ministers.

One of the Greek sources told AFP: “The officials are talking alternatively with the Greek and German ministers.”

This was an unusual set-up that «attests to the difficulties to make the two men agree,» the source said.

The goal of the meetings, known as confessionals in EU jargon, was to lay the groundwork for a fruitful meeting of the Eurogroup’s 19 ministers, who were originally meant to begin their meeting at 1400 GMT.

“The discussions are on a new package of concessions» beyond those offered in a letter from Athens requesting an extension to its bailout with the eurozone that expires at the end of the month.

Arriving for the talks, Varoufakis said he hoped for a deal, given the effort made by Athens.

“The Greek government has gone not the extra mile but an extra ten miles and now we are expecting our partners to meet us not half way, but one fifth of the way,» he said.