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Greece tells IMF, Germany to ‘Stop Playing with Fire’ over Debt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (AFP)

Athens – As Eurozone announced progress in Greece’s loan negotiations, observers believe there is no real improvement given that tension has ruled over the situation.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of hampering the current negotiations between his country and the creditors.

Tsipras told the IMF and Schaeuble to “stop playing with fire” over the country’s ongoing debt issues.

Speaking at a meeting of his Syriza party, the PM remained confident a solution over repayments would be found despite growing fears of a fresh crisis that could threaten the sustainability of the Eurozone.

He called on the IMF to “revise its forecast” adding that the Fund does not want to finance the bailout program.

He further said that IMF has lost its credibility by “constantly making erroneous predictions and is unable to support a program without a generous debt cut.”

Tsipras also called for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to encourage her finance minister to end his permanent aggressiveness towards Greece and stop playing with fire.

He said: “The IMF is playing a game of poker by dragging things aside because it does not want to blame the intransigence of the German minister.”

He added that he believed the country’s bailout review would end well saying that it: “will be completed, and it will be completed positively, without concessions in matters of principle.”

“We are ready to discuss anything within the framework of the agreement and within reason, but not things beyond the framework of the agreement and beyond reason. We will not discuss demands which are not backed up by logic and by numbers,” stressed the PM.

Greece is currently negotiating with international loaners on the proposed economic reforms. Tsipras had been trying to move forward with the talks in order to receive financial aid given that there are some fears that Athens maybe in debt again following months of dispute between the Eurozone and IMF.

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said progress had been made in the Brussels talks with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and other EU and IMF officials. But he didn’t provide any further details.

Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, warned that the next meeting of Eurozone ministers on 20 February, as an unofficial deadline ahead of the votes, would still be too early for a breakthrough.

“We will take stock of the further progress,” said Dijsselbloem.

Athens faces debt repayments of 7 billion euros this summer that it cannot afford without defusing the feud that is holding up new loans from Greece’s 86-billion-euro bailout.

There has long been a split between the IMF and Europe over a demand by the Eurozone that Greece deliver a primary balance, or budget surplus before debt repayments, of 3.5 percent of GDP. The IMF has said only 1.5 percent is feasible.

The options Athens is said to be considering, including substantial debt relief or even a withdrawal from the bailout, have been ruled out by Schaeuble. IMF proposals that Greece increase taxes.

Dijsselbloem indicated Greece’s creditors would be prepared to ease the terms of debt repayments further if Athens continued to cooperate on reforms. But he ruled out any relief on principal debt.

Earlier last week, and in response to the IMF’s demands for a reduction in Greek debt and fiscal surplus, German Finance Minister ruled out a debt cut for Athens as a violation of European rules, adding that the country would have to leave the euro area to do so.

“We can’t undertake a debt haircut for a member of the European single currency, it’s ruled out by the Lisbon Treaty. For that, Greece would have to exit the currency area,” he stressed.

German Finance Minister and President of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, called a surprise meeting with other key players in Brussels on Friday afternoon. Greece’s Finance Minister and Pierre Moscovici, EU commissioner for economic affairs, Klaus Regling, head of the European Stability Mechanism (the EU bailout fund), and Benoît Coeuré from the European Central Bank were also reported to be taking part in the meeting.