• Aug. 23, 2017, 2:18 pm

Greece calls on EU/IMF lenders to show political will for deal

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s main debt negotiator called on the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to show their willingness to break an impasse in debt talks, ahead of a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist-led government, which came to power promising to end the austerity terms under Greece’s existing 240 billion euro debt deal, has been locked for months in talks with its foreign lenders over reforms that could unlock much needed bailout funds.

“Any delay in achieving this compromise has to do with one and only one reason, and this is the political differences between the government and the institutions,” Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s newly appointed coordinator of the talks, told Avgi newspaper.

With bailout aid frozen while it is shut out of debt markets, Athens risks running out of cash unless a deal is reached soon.

“After weeks of laborious negotiations, if there is a real will from the other side, it will be clear that the discussion has reached a level where an agreement is very close and will be reached in the coming period,” Tsakalotos said.

Athens’ foreign creditors are demanding further austerity in exchange for funds, while an angry Greek public has felt the pain of income cuts amid a six-year recession.

A poll by MRB for Sunday’s Realnews showed that 72 percent of Greeks wanted what Athens calls an “honorable compromise”, meaning concessions from both sides to reach a deal. A Marc survey showed that 57 percent wanted Athens to stick to its “red lines” on pension and labor reforms.

Tsipras will hold a wider cabinet meeting on Sunday, a day before euro zone finance ministers discuss progress made so far in the negotiations.

Greece needs to pay a 750 million euro IMF loan this week and pensions and public sector wages at the end of the month, and Athens hopes for the European Central Bank to allow Greece to raise cash by issuing more Treasury bills.

“It’s now the political side that must offer a solution,” Economy Minister George Stathakis told Avgi.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; editing by Jane Baird)

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