BRUSSELS (AFP) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem agreed Thursday to renew efforts to resolve a bitter row over extending Greece's current bailout after talks overnight collapsed acrimoniously.
The breakthrough was made on the sidelines of an European Union summit and comes after talks Wednesday between Greek Finance Minister Yaris Varoufakis and his 18 euro zone counterparts ended without an accord after six tense hours.
"Prime Minister Tsipras and Eurogroup president Dijsselbloem agreed today to ask the institutions to engage with the Greek authorities to start work on a technical assessment of the common ground between the current programme and the Greek government's plans," Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister, said in a tweet.
The agreement was made "in order to facilitate the discussions" at a new Eurogroup meeting set for Monday that is largely viewed as the last chance to seal a deal before Greece's current bailout programme expires at the end of the month.
Crucially for Athens, the statement from Dijsselbloem fails to refer to the hated so-called troika - the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank - whose team of experts have overseen the harsh austerity terms of Greece's debt rescue package.
Ditching the troika mission has been a key demand of the radical leftist government, that swept to power on a promise to end austerity after elections in January.
Heading into the summit, his first since becoming premier, Tsipras talked up hopes of a deal, saying that a "mutually viable solution" was within reach.
Tsipras must persuade the other 27 European Union leaders to back an austerity-light replacement plan for Greece's €240 billion (S$370 billion) EU-IMF bailout, which he says punishes ordinary Greeks and stifles growth.
Failure to reach a deal on an extension of the bailout or a credit line for Greece by the end of February means Athens would quickly default and almost inevitably crash out of the euro zone.
European sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the eurozone ministers meeting on Wednesday had descended into a "total mess," making a reconciliation between Dijsselbloem and Tsipras necessary to prepare the talks on Monday.