Greek bailout negotiations enter ′critical stage′ | News | DW | 18.02.2015
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Greek bailout negotiations enter 'critical stage'

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government has gone into overdrive in hopes of resolving Greece's debt crisis on its own terms. German Finance Minister Schäuble said they were "insulting" their Eurogroup colleagues.

At a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his government's demands for an end to austerity were gaining broad support.

"There were protests across Europe supporting the moves made by Greece and we have managed for the first time through contacts with foreign leaders to create a positive stance on our requests," he said in televised remarks reported by news agency Reuters.

The left-wing prime minister added, "We are at a crucial point for these negotiations ... We are putting forward proposals and we hope to overcome this obstacle."

The obstacle in question is the fact that Greece's reserves will run out on February 24, and the current bailout program is set to expire four days later. As of yet there has been no breakthrough in negotiations with creditors. Athens will submit a request for a six-month loan extension to give it time to renegotiate the harsh terms of its bailout, an important campaign platform for Tsipras' Syriza party.

Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis confirmed the extension application on Wednesday, saying "we are coming to the table to find a solution" and asked Greeks to wait for Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to formally send the request.

The bailout must end "by any means"

His statement came after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Wednesday yielded no results as Tsipras and Varoufakis have refused to back down from their attempts to remove the painful austerity measures imposed by its creditors the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the Eurogroup, and have some of the country's debts forgiven in favor of a growth-based aid program.

"We believe the terms of the bailout cannot continue by any means," Sakellaridis told Antenna TV, a private network.

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Germans poke fun at the situation with a Carnival float- but the government's position may be hurting the country's reputation

Greece's creditors similarly refuse to bend. Germany, which is responsible for 42 billion euros worth of Greece's 240 billion euro debt, has taken a particularly hard line. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble dismissed the Greek gambit, telling German television on Tuesday that "it's not about extending a credit program but about whether this bailout program will be fulfilled - yes or no."

"We're a bit used to this - every day there are different reports, and then when we are in a room together things sound completely different," he said.

Greece was on the "right path," Schäuble said, before continuing to criticize his Greek colleagues.

"If there is a better way, OK, but we don't see it so far," the German minister said. "Simply saying, 'we need more money again and we're not going to do anything any more,' and then insulting people, that absolutely won't work."

On Wednesday, a Schäuble spokesman added that any extension of international loans to Greece beyond the end of the month was "inextricably" linked to the reforms agreed to by Athens under its current bailout.

es/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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