Greece Wants Negotiations on New Debt Accord
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ruled out seeking aid from Russia and said on Monday he would pursue negotiations for a new debt agreement with European partners, but saw little sign of compromise from Germany.
"We are in substantial negotiations with our partners in Europe and those that have lent to us. We have obligations towards them," Tsipras said at a news conference in Cyprus during his first foreign visit as prime minister.
"Right now, there are no other thoughts on the table," he said, when asked whether Greece would seek aid from Russia, which has suggested it could be willing to listen to a request for support from Athens, Reuters said in a report.
The remarks on Russia could reassure EU partners shocked last week when the Tsipras government initially appeared to reject the bloc's consensus on economic sanctions against Moscow. Greece eventually signed up last Thursday to extending existing sanctions against Russia for six more months.
Tsipras and his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are touring European capitals this week in a diplomatic offensive to replace Greece's bailout accord with the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund "troika."
After a tumultuous first week during which his left-leaning government made clear it intends to keep campaign promises to ditch the tough austerity conditions imposed under its existing bailout, the emphasis this week appears to be on maintaining that a deal is still possible.
Greece, unable to borrow on the markets and facing pressure to extend the current support agreement when it expires on Feb. 28, is looking for a bridging agreement that would give it breathing space to propose a new debt arrangement.
It has so far met a tough line from European partners, above all from Germany. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview on Monday that Berlin would not accept any unilateral changes to Greece's debt program.
"We want Greece to continue going down this successful path in the interests of Greece and the Greeks but we will not accept one-sided changes to the program," he said.
Despite German resistance to the idea of a new deal on Greece, Tsipras said the tide of debate in Europe had been unexpectedly encouraging for Athens, with more and more backing for the idea of a change of direction in Europe.