Talks between Tsipras, Merkel could be chance to break impasse

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on March 23 for talks expected to focus on Greece’s looming cash crunch even as bilateral tensions remain high.

Tsipras is expected to use the meeting, proposed by Merkel on Monday, to seek a political solution to the current deadlock that would allow the release of much-needed funding.

In the meantime, technical experts from the Greek side and the creditors will continue talks in Brussels on Wednesday as diplomats prepare for an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday and Friday.

Tsipras had been planning to raise the matter of Greece’s funding needs and reform proposals with the German chancellor on the sidelines of the summit. Sources conceded that the meeting is likely to be “difficult,” adding that Tsipras may also seek a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Sources close to Tsipras welcomed Merkel’s overture to the Greek premier, noting that she had so far rejected the prospect of a bilateral meeting.

The meeting could be the last chance for the two leaders to avert an impasse which some prominent Greek government officials blame on “circles in the EU” that want the current administration to fall and are pushing it to implement measures the previous conservative-led coalition had agreed to.

In an interview with Ethnos newspaper published on Monday, Tsipras insisted that further tough measures were out of the question. “Whatever obstacles we may encounter in our negotiating effort, we will not return to the policies of austerity,” Tsipras told Ethnos.

One reason that creditors appear to be holding a hard line is the Greek government’s delay in enforcing economic reforms. Another is a series of initiatives that have been interpreted as aggressive vis-a-vis Greece’s creditors, notably Tsipras’s decision to resurrect the country’s demands for war reparations from Germany.

In comments on Monday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the new Greek government had destroyed all the trust that had been rebuilt in the past.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici and Juncker struck a different tone, with the former warning of “catastrophe” if Greece has to leave the euro while the latter called on other eurozone governments to show solidarity with Athens.

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