Greece Rejects Talks With EU-IMF Creditors
Greece's new left-wing finance minister has said he will not negotiate the terms of the country's bailout with the "troika" team from the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) overseeing it.
Yanis Varoufakis said that instead he wanted direct talks with eurozone leaders, to try to cancel some of the money Greece owes, NewsNow reported.
Varoufakis made the comments during a meeting in Athens with Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the eurozone finance ministers' group, marking the start of Greece's drive to persuade its creditors to ease the strict terms of the bailout.
The Greek minister said his country had no intention of cooperating with a mission from the EU, European Central Bank and IMF, which had been due to return to Athens.
Varoufakis gave no indication of what Greece would do if it cannot reach an agreement by a February 28 deadline, when the bailout ends.
Without the EU/IMF bailout program, Greece's banks would lose their access to ECB funding.
The center-right New Democracy party, which lost power in Sunday's election, said the new government "does not understand what it is about to do".
Tsipras and Varoufakis will visit London, Paris and Rome next week.
Although neither France nor Italy has shown any sign of accepting the Greek government's demand to write off part of its $360b debt, they have both previously called for a change of course from German-style budget austerity.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Berlin was open for talks with the new government about its debt, but he also made clear that Athens had to do its part.
"We need solidarity in Europe, and besides we cannot be blackmailed," Schaeuble said.
No Debt Reduction
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there should be no debt relief for Athens adding to tensions between the new anti-austerity Greek government and its international creditors.
"There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece's debt," Ms Merkel told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper. "I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation."
"Europe will continue to show its solidarity with Greece, as with other countries hard hit by the crisis if these countries carry out reforms and cost-saving measures," Merkel said.
Greece belongs in the eurozone and the single currency depends on there being no "Grexit", the EU economic and financial affairs commissioner says.
Pierre Moscovici told the BBC's Hardtalk "we will do everything" to prevent Greece leaving the eurozone. But, he said, the Greek government had to respect previous commitments.
"We believe that the place of Greece is in the eurozone, the euro needs Greece and that Greece needs and wants to be in the eurozone," Moscovici, a former French finance minister, said.