Mar 17, 2015 11:51 AM

Greece seeking joint Merkel-Hollande talks on bailout

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece has called for joint talks with leaders of Germany, France and the European Union executive to try and resolve the crisis surrounding the country's bailout negotiations.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proposed meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a senior Greek government official told The Associated Press.

The talks would be held in Brussels on Thursday ahead of an EU leaders' meeting, said the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity pending official announcements.

There was no immediate response to the Greek request.

"I have now no confirmation of any particular meeting arrangements," EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.

"This is now the moment for technical discussions between the experts including Greece, and we need swift progress on implementing the Greek reform commitments."

European creditor states are in talks with Greece on a list of reforms it should present by the end of April in order to receive the next batch of rescue loans. The talks, however, are not progressing quickly and Greece faces a cash crunch in coming weeks.

In Paris, a government official who also asked not to be identified said the French government was waiting to hear from bailout inspectors currently in Athens.

"Depending on their results, we'll need to see if financing solutions are necessary sooner than at the end of April," the official said.

Tsipras is already due to meet Merkel in Berlin on Monday and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 8.

Later Tuesday, Tsipras was to hold talks in Athens with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

The prospect of a Brussels meeting saw Greek borrowing rates ease and shares on the Athens Stock exchange rebound from Monday losses, trading up nearly 2 percent in the late afternoon.

Attention, however, also turned to Tsipras' outspoken finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who was quizzed on German television over the weekend on a speech he gave two years ago. An online video of his appearance showed Varoufakis making a rude gesture when referring to Germany, a lead creditor.

Varoufakis said that the version shown on the program had been doctored and later tweeted a video of the full version of his speech also showing him raising his middle finger while saying: "My proposal was that Greece should simply announce that it is defaulting just like Argentina did within the euro, in January 2010, and stick the finger to Germany and say: Well now you can solve this problem by yourself."


AP writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.


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