Saturday 10 December 2016

Greece and creditors resume bailout talks amid leak dispute

Published 04/04/2016 | 16:56

Greece has resumed talks over its bailout amid a leaks dispute
Greece has resumed talks over its bailout amid a leaks dispute

Greece's government has started new talks with bailout creditors amid a dispute over a leaked conversation between foreign officials involved in the deal.

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Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is meeting representatives of Greece's European creditors and the International Monetary Fund, following a two-week Easter break.

The main sticking points are mandated pension cuts, tax reforms and future cuts Greece must make to meet bailout targets. The country has depended on bailouts since 2010.

The talks were overcast by the WikiLeaks organisation's weekend publication of the alleged transcript of an IMF conference call on the Greek programme.

Citing the leak, Athens quickly accused the IMF of considering the use of a potential Greek bankruptcy to strengthen its negotiating position - which IMF head Christine Lagarde dismissed as "nonsense".

Mr Tsakalotos said afterwards that the "introductory" meeting focused on how talks would proceed over the coming week, and that the leaked IMF conference call was not brought up by either side.

Outside the Athens hotel where the talks were held, about 200 members of Greece's main civil servants' union, ADEDY and left-wing party supporters held a peaceful protest, chanting "Greeks, fight back, the European Union and the IMF are drinking your blood". ADEDY has called a 24-hour strike and protest march on Thursday against the proposed new cutbacks.

Last summer, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's left-led government performed a policy u-turn and signed a third rescue loan agreement worth about 86 billion euro. But regular disbursal of the funds depends on how bailout creditors assess the government's implementation of agreed reforms and cutbacks.

The Greek government distanced itself from the leak, with a statement from Mr Tsipras' office saying the country is "perfectly secure, much more so than other countries where the overwhelming majority of the WikiLeaks leaks have taken place".

The statement said the negotiations should conclude as soon as possible, "without unreal demands for additional measures, beyond what last July's agreement stipulates".

Mr Tsakalotos has said he wants the talks to reach a solution by April 22, when he next meets with his peers from the 19-country eurozone.

German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said Berlin still believes it is "realistic" to complete the review by Greek Easter at the end of April.

"We don't see why it wouldn't be possible to manage that with good will and political energy on the part of Greece," he said. But he added: "A debt cut is not up for debate at the moment."

Press Association

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