EU leader optimistic over Greek debt talks

BRUSSELS - European Union (EU) president Donald Tusk said yesterday he felt that talks to reach a deal on Greece's debt crisis with its creditors would end soon with a positive outcome.

"For now, I can only say, that work is under way and for sure, it will need still many hours," Mr Tusk said as he arrived for a two-day EU leaders summit in Brussels. "The last hours have been critical but I have a good hunch that, unlike in Sophocles' tragedies, this Greek story will have a happy ending."

The EU summit was taking place while a high-stakes euro- zone finance ministers meeting on Greece was being held in a building next door.

The leaders' talks would deal primarily with the Mediterranean migrant crisis and plans by Britain to hold a vote on remaining in the EU. There had also been hope that the leaders would sign off on a bailout deal for Greece.

Euro zone finance ministers yesterday expressed bemusement on the status of talks with Greece after they were presented at the last minute with competing proposals aimed at resolving the stand-off over aid.

Greece's creditors pulled together a common position that did not have the support of the Greek government and sent it to finance chiefs to review as the basis for a deal, said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of his euro zone counterparts. A Greek government official said that Greece had submitted its own proposals.

"We have run out comments and also run out of patience," Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna told reporters.

Ministers were losing their calm as they met for the fourth time in a week after talks between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the heads of his country's three creditor institutions failed to produce a compromise earlier yesterday.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that, rather than making progress, the Greeks had moved "backwards".

Duelling plans on the conditions attached to bailout aid have dominated the Greek saga since Mr Tsipras was elected in January on a platform of ending austerity.

With the looming June 30 deadline for the expiry of Greece's euro zone bailout and a €1.5 billion (S$2.3 billion) payment to the International Monetary Fund, there was only a small chance of a breakthrough in the finance ministers' meeting, said another EU official.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'EU leader optimistic over Greek debt talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe