Greece and the EU said Thursday debt talks would continue to reach a deal on disputed reforms as Athens began to feel the heat of a wave of June debt repayments.
With over 300 million euros ($336 million) due to be repaid to the IMF on Friday, the radical left Greek government was under mounting pressure to reach a default-saving agreement with its creditors.
The Athens stock exchange on Thursday opened with a three-percent drop after Greece and its creditors failed to reach a breakthrough at crunch talks in Brussels late on Wednesday.
However, anti-austerity Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker held out hope by saying they would meet again soon.
“The talks will continue in the coming days,” said Tsipras, whose hard-left Syriza party was elected in January on promises to end five years of painful austerity measures that plunged Greece into recession.
He added that after months of often bad-tempered talks between Athens and its creditors, “there was proof from the Commission that it is at least disposed towards reaching a realistic agreement very quickly.”
And on Thursday Juncker told a committee hearing at the European Parliament that he had had “long, challenging discussions and negotiations with the Greek prime minister.”
But he added: “This is the reason why I have to leave (the hearing)… We have to prepare the next round of negotiations,”
Greek media said the government was hoping for a deal by June 14.
Athens has the money to pay the International Monetary Fund on Friday, a source with knowledge of the matter told AFP, but added that the government would ultimately decide whether to make the payment.
Agreement on a reform plan would unlock the final 7.2-billion-euro ($8.0-billion) tranche of Greece’s bailout.
Tsipras’s government presented a 46-page blueprint on how to overhaul the struggling Greek economy without resorting to harsh austerity measures and cuts.
But the creditors put forward a rival plan hammered out without Greece at a meeting in Berlin on Monday attended by the leaders of Germany and France.
The Greek premier early on Thursday said that there were “points that no one would consider as a base for discussion” in the talks and that Greece’s reform plan “remains the only realistic plan on the table”.
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also attended the four-hour talks over dinner in Brussels Wednesday, told reporters it was a “very good meeting”.
The European Commission — the executive arm of the 28-member European Union and one of Greece’s three bailout monitors along with the IMF and European Central Bank — said in a statement that there had been “progress” during the talks.
Senior eurozone officials are due to hold a teleconference later Thursday, officials told AFP. Many EU leaders will also be in Brussels for a Latin American summit next Wednesday and Thursday.
Fears of a messy Greek exit from the euro are growing, with its current 240-billion-euro bailout programme due to run out at the end of June, and a total of 1.6 billion euros in payments due to the IMF this month.
SOurce: The Gaurdian