Greece promises to do 'whatever we can' as debt talks cheer markets

Fri Feb 13, 2015 12:21pm EST
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By Alastair Macdonald and Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Greek government promised to do "whatever we can" to secure a deal with its international creditors next week, cheering investors as experts from both sides began technical talks on Friday to lay the ground for an accord.

Fear of financial chaos have seen savers taking their cash out of Greek banks. Banking sources said this was the reason the European Central Bank offered more emergency funding for Greek banks on Thursday until after crunch talks among euro zone finance ministers on Monday.

Greek markets rose strongly after new prime minister Alexis Tsipras, elected on a promise to scrap a bailout deal he says has impoverished millions, agreed to have aides sit down with officials from the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - commonly known as the "troika".

However, the Dutch finance minister, who will chair a meeting on Monday of euro zone colleagues, continued to play down the chances of a rapid conclusion to negotiations on Monday. "I’m really still very pessimistic about that now," Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

"Greeks' expectations of the Greek government are sky high," he added. "But the possibilities, given the state of their economy, are very limited. So that still needs a huge adjustment and I don’t know if we can figure that out as soon as Monday."

A spokesman for Tsipras, who had accepted Dijsselbloem's offer of the technical talks during a first encounter with fellow EU leaders at a Brussels summit on Thursday, said: "We will do whatever we can so that a deal is found on Monday."

On Wednesday, euro zone finance ministers failed even to agree a broad common statement on how to maintain funding for Greece following the expiry at the end of this month of the three-year-old bailout package - hated by many Greeks along with the troika that has enforced its terms.

Tsipras wants a new financial package, freed of unpopular terminology and the most burdensome conditions. But Germany, backed solidly so far by the other 17 euro zone states, insists his government should extend the current terms for some months, giving it time to develop a new strategy if it wishes.   Continued...

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses a news conference after a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir