ELMAU, Germany (AP) — A top European Union official said Sunday that Greece’s creditors didn’t deliver a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to end the standoff over the country’s international bailout, disputing how the latest proposal has been presented in Greece.
The comments from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker came after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Parliament on Friday that the creditors’ proposals for a deal on the country’s debt were “a negative surprise” and termed the suggestion “irrational.”
Juncker and other European leaders told their U.S., Japanese and Canadian counterparts at the Group of Seven summit in Germany that they are working “at high pressure” to resolve the impasse, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told ZDF television.
“But we also made clear that, in Europe, solidarity on one side always goes together with an effort on the other side, and we have not yet achieved our aim,” Merkel added.
Athens, which faces pressure to agree to painful deficit-cutting measures, wants any deal to lighten its crushing debt load. Tsipras said Greece could not accept last week’s proposal from the so-called “institutions” — the EU’s executive Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
Tsipras spoke by phone Saturday evening with Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, the latest in a string of such conversations. Greek officials say the three are expected to meet at a previously scheduled EU-Latin America summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
Juncker told reporters just before the G-7 summit opened Sunday that the creditors’ latest offer made clear where there was room for negotiation.
He said Tsipras “was presenting the proposal of the institutions as a leave-or-take offer. That was not the case.”
It was only the latest back-and-forth in six months of difficult negotiations since Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party won Greece’s national election and came into office vowing to do away with the tough conditions creditors imposed in return for two bailouts worth 240 billion euros ($270 billion.)
Juncker, often regarded as favoring more leniency with Greece, displayed impatience with Tsipras several times during the news conference. He said the prime minister had promised him additional Greek proposals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but they had not arrived.
Juncker said he was still friends with the Greek prime minister and said he ruled out Greece leaving the 19-nation eurozone, but that no one “could pull a rabbit out of a hat” and come up with a deal.
The European leaders are “all of the opinion that we still have a good bit of work in front of us,” Merkel said in a separate interview with ARD television. “We will do everything that is possible.”
Greece is running dangerously low on money.
It was scheduled to make a 305 million-euro payment to the IMF on Friday, but instead took the option of bundling four payments due this month into one installment due at the month’s end. A default on its debts could eventually lead to worsening turmoil and Greece leaving the shared euro currency so it can print its own currency to cover its bills.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.
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