Greece’s Tsipras Speaks to EU’s Juncker

By GABRIELE STEINHAUSER and VIKTORIA DENDRINOU
Updated Feb. 10, 2015 12:26 p.m. http://www.wsj.com
BRUSSELS—Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Tuesday amid difficult negotiations between Athens and the rest of the eurozone over new financial aid for the cash-strapped government, a commission spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The call follows comments earlier Tuesday by another commission spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, who said that contacts between the European officials and Greece in recent days “have not been very fruitful,” adding that eurozone finance ministers are unlikely to reach a deal on Greece’s financial needs at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble echoed those views on Tuesday. “We will not have a new program tomorrow,” he said, dismissing reports of any initial “bridging” financing deal between the EU and the left-wing Greek government as “false.”

Speaking after a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 largest economies in Istanbul, Mr. Schäuble said eurozone finance chiefs will do no more than hear binding suggestions from the new Greek government at the meeting.

Earlier Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia could only provide Greece with Russian rubles should Athens ask Moscow for financial aid. However, Russia hasn’t received a request for help from Greece, Mr. Siluanov said on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting.

The new Greek government has courted warm relations with Russia in the short time it has been in office. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will visit Moscow on Wednesday for talks with his Russian counterpart, the same day Greek leaders are expected in Brussels to seek emergency debt aid from the EU.

Mr. Tsipras has been touring European capitals for the past two weeks, seeking support for plans to ease austerity and reduce his country’s debt burden.

A senior Greek finance-ministry official said Monday the government wants the rest of the eurozone to give it time—and financial leeway—until August to negotiate a new financial deal, which would then start in September.

To survive until then, Greece hopes to get its hands on a €1.9 billion ($2.2 billion) slice from its existing aid program and permission from the European Central Bank to issue more short-term debt, the official said.

At the moment, Greece is only allowed to issue a total of €15 billion in so-called Treasury bills and an earlier request to sell an extra €4.5 billion was rebuffed last week by the ECB, according to European officials. Those officials have also ruled out releasing any more MONEY as long as Greece can’t prove that it will meet budget and reform targets agreed under its current aid deal.

Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at gabriele.steinhauser@wsj.com and Viktoria Dendrinou at viktoria.dendrinou@wsj.com

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