Greece on Monday resumes reform talks with its international creditors, including the IMF, amid leaks claiming the global lender was toying with the idea of a Greek default.
With IMF chief Christine Lagarde dismissing this as “nonsense”, Greek ministers will try over the next few days to bridge differences on the country's budget goals and the scope of ongoing pension and tax overhauls.
Over the weekend, Athens angrily demanded explanations after WikiLeaks said the IMF was looking for a crisis “event” to push the indebted nation into concluding the talks.
The whistleblowing website released what it said was a March 19 conversation between Iva Petrova and Delia Velculescu, who have been representing the IMF in the negotiations with Greece, and Poul Thomsen, director of the Fund's European Department.
“In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when (the Greeks) were about to run out of money seriously and to default,” Thomson is quoted as saying in the transcript.
Later in the conversation, Velculescu reportedly replies: “I agree that we need an event, but I don't know what that will be.”
After Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote to Lagarde to complain, she made public her reply on Sunday “Any speculation that IMF staff would consider using a credit event as a negotiating tactic is simply nonsense,” she wrote.
Tsipras' leftist government has rarely seen eye to eye with the global lender, with the young PM often employing strong language against them.
Last year he said the Washington-based organization carried “criminal responsibility” for Greece’s austerity-driven recession woes.
More recently Tsipras has accused the IMF of employing “stalling tactics’ and “arbitrary” estimates to delay the reforms review which is crucial to unlock further bailout cash.
Lagarde replied in kind earlier Monday, wondering whether this sort of atmosphere is conducive to an agreement.
“This weekend's incident has made me concerned as to whether we can indeed achieve progress in a climate of extreme sensitivity to statements of either side,” Lagarde wrote to Tsipras.
She also called on the Greek leader to make sure that no further leaks occur.
“It is critical that your authorities ensure an environment that respects the privacy of their internal discussions and take all necessary steps to guarantee their personal safety,” she added.
In July, Greece grudgingly accepted a three-year, 86-billion-euro ($94 billion) European Union bailout that saved it from crashing out of the eurozone. But the bailout came with strict conditions such as fresh tax cuts and pay cuts.
The IMF worked with the EU on two previous bailouts for Greece since 2010 but the Washington-based lender said it would not participate in the third rescue plan without credible reforms and an EU agreement to ease Greece’s debt burden.