May 7, 2015 / 10:31 AM / in 3 years

Greece says sticking to 'red lines', wants concessions from lenders

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s government is sticking to its non-negotiable “red lines” on labor and pension issues and expects its EU and IMF creditors also to make concessions to reach a deal, the government spokesman said on Thursday.

A Bulgarian man begs outside banks in central Athens May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Greece’s new leftist government has said further cuts to pension payments and reforms making it easier to fire workers in the private sector are among “red lines” it will no cross.

“There should not be an expectation on the part of institutions that the government has to back down on everything in order to have a deal,” Gabriel Sakellaridis told a news conference.

“When you negotiate, there should be mutual concessions. We won’t go beyond the limits of our red lines. It’s clear that we cannot cut pensions,” he added.

Athens is running out of cash but has yet to reach a deal with its lenders, who have ruled out an agreement by Monday’s meeting of euro zone ministers.

However, the government hopes that meeting will acknowledge Greece’s position and will allow the European Central Bank to relax liquidity restrictions so that a cash crunch is eased, said Sakellaridis.

An omnibus bill of reforms promised to lenders in return for aid will only be submitted to parliament after a deal with the creditors has been struck, he said.

Asked about a May 12 payment to the IMF that has been in doubt, Sakellaridis repeated the government’s stance that Athens aims to repay all its financial obligations.

He said Athens was not emphasizing the issue of debt relief in the talks to help facilitate a deal but that the issue was crucial and needed to be addressed sooner or later.

“We know that the debt is not viable but we are not raising it emphatically so that a deal can be concluded at this stage,” he said. “But soon, whether we want it or not, it will not be possible for that to be shoved under the carpet.”

Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou, Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Gareth Jones

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