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Eurogroup says no talks until after Greek referendum

Eurozone finance ministers have refused further talks with Greece until after a referendum on the bailout deal. Greek Prime Minister Tsipras sought to assuage peoples' fears a day after missing a debt payment.

A conference call of eurozone finance ministers, known collectively as the "Eurogroup," ended on Wednesday with the decision to await the result of Greece's controversial bailout referendum on Sunday before continuing negotiations with Athens.

"Eurogroup united in decision to wait for the outcome of the Greece referendum before any further talks," tweeted Slovakian Finance Minister Pater Kazimir. "Let's not put the cart before the horse."

The decision echoes a statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in parliament in Berlin on Wednesday that it made no sense to negotiate further until the referendum was over.

Ahead of the talks, Eurogroup leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands said he saw "little chance" of progress after a speech by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday urged citizens to vote "no" to the bailout on the July 5 referendum.

Tsipras said that a "no" vote was not a no to the euro and EU - but rather a chance to go back to the negotiating table with its creditors and secure a better deal.

Dijsselbloem told the press after the Eurogroup conference call that it was this "advice of the Greek government" to vote 'no' that made eurozone finance ministers "see no ground for further for talks at this point."

Tsipras had also sought to assure Greeks struggling with closed banks and withdrawal limits of 60 euros a day that he would do everything he could to make sure the situation resolved itself as quickly as possible.

"I provide my personal guarantee that I will do whatever is possible to make these difficulties temporary," he said, adding that those who claimed he had a secret agenda to get Greece out of the eurozone were "telling a great lie."

ECB keeps cap on emergency loans

In a meeting on Wednesday, the European Central Bank's governing council decided to continue but not increase the liquidity lifeline to cash-strapped Greek banks.

"The Emergency Liquidity Assistance ceiling for Greek banks was maintained at the current level," a spokesman for the ECB said. This is about 89 billion euros.

The cap on emergency loans had been introduced last Sunday, forcing Greece to close its banks and impose capital controls.

Not a full day after Tsipras told creditors he would accept their bailout offer if some specific conditions were amended, he repeated in his public address that Greece was being "blackmailed"- a phrase he has used several times in the past, something for which he was criticized by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.

Greece's second emergency loans program from the EU formally expired on June 30, following last week's eurogroup decision to end the loans program early in light of the deadlock with Athens. Not freeing up the latest tranche of loans from Brussels meant, by extension, that Greece also became the first developed country to miss a repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at midnight. "Bailout" funds would have covered the payment.

Athens has since made a last-minute proposal for a third bailout worth nearly 30 billion euros, to follow the two rescue packages amounting to 240 billion euros Greece has received since 2010. Dijsselbloem said in a letter to Prime Minister Tsipras, published later on Wednesday, that any talks on this issue would wait until the Greek people's vote on Sunday.

"Secondly, we will come back to your request for financial stability support from the ESM [European Stability Mechanism] only after and on the basis of the outcome of the referendum," Dijsselbloem said at his letter's conclusion.

es/msh (AFP, AP)

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