German foreign minister hails ‘improved tone’ in Greek ties

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed an improved tone in discussions with debt-mired Greece, after meeting visiting Greek premier Alexis Tsipras Tuesday.

Steinmeier met Tsipras at his hotel in central Berlin one day after the Greek leader held crunch talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which both called for an end to the bitter recriminations the countries have traded in recent weeks.

“I am pleased that the tone in the German-Greek talks in recent days has clearly changed and clearly improved,” Steinmeier, who also met his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in Berlin late Sunday, told reporters.

He said a warmer relationship was not a “solution” to the debt crisis “but it is undoubtedly key for serious discussions with each other in the coming days.”

Steinmeier said he stressed to Tspiras that the “fiscal policy problems of Greece must be addressed in the context of a European-Greek conversation.”

“The impression should not be created in Greece that everything can be resolved in the context of the German-Greek relationship. That is not the case,” he said.

Tsipras and Merkel on Monday urged an end to the vicious “stereotypes” and name-calling that have threatened to rip the eurozone apart, at a press conference following an initial round of talks.

After weeks of acrimony between the new radical-left government in Greece and Germany, the paymaster for eurozone bailout programmes, both leaders were at pains to stress their common ground on the debt crisis.

Tspiras nevertheless blamed the swingeing budget cuts championed by Merkel for hobbling the Greek economy and exacerbating unemployment and poverty, while the German leader insisted reforms were essential to find a sustainable solution.

They later spoke for more than five hours in an atmosphere Merkel’s office described as “good and constructive.”

Tsipras also met with leaders of Germany’s leftist opposition and was to hold talks with Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats later Tuesday.

Greece is desperately seeking the last tranche of a 240-billion-euro ($255-billion) EU-IMF bailout, amounting to about seven billion euros, but Brussels is refusing until it first approves Athens’s new package of reforms to its crisis-hit economy. [AFP]

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