February 20, 2015 08:19
Germany on Thursday rejected debt-ridden Greece's bid for a six-month extension of its bailout, but Athens later said that the country's premier had a "constructive" phone call with Germany's leader about the financial crisis.
Premier Alexis Tsipras and Chancellor Angela Merkel talked for 50 minutes. While Athens said there was a "positive climate" during the conversation, Berlin confirmed only that the call had occurred.
Athens asked its eurozone lenders for the extension of the $300 billion loan program that expires at the end of February, but without pledging to continue the stiff austerity measures imposed on Greece in exchange for the bailout.
Greece has been trying to negotiate changes to the package since Tsipras took control of the government last month on a campaign pledge to end the stringent bailout terms. But Germany and other European countries have demanded that Athens live up to its original commitments.
The German Finance Ministry said the latest Greek bailout extension plan "is not a substantial proposal for a solution."
New negotiations are possible Friday at a meeting of the eurozone's 19 finance ministers.
Germany, the main European creditor, has repeatedly said that any extension of loans is "inextricably" linked to the reforms agreed to by the previous Greek government. In general, Germany has firmly held that aid for struggling countries must come with strings attached.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he was optimistic that Greece would receive the extension and avoid possible bankruptcy.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew spoke to Varoufakis by telephone Wednesday, urging him to work for a compromise.
The Treasury Department said Lew told his Greek counterpart that "failure to reach an agreement would lead to immediate hardship in Greece and that the uncertainty is not good for Europe."
Greece has until the end of the month to pay back its European lenders or negotiate a new deal. Failure could mean default or possibly Greece's exit from the eurozone.
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