Talks between Greece and its international creditors over a new bailout package should go ahead on Monday after logistical issues that delayed meetings this week are resolved, a Greek official said on Saturday. The meetings with officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund had been expected to start on Friday but were delayed by organizational issues including the location of talks and security.
The finance ministry official said talks were now expected to get underway formally on Monday after the logistical issues were resolved. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied that the government was trying to keep the lenders' team away from government departments. "We don't have any problem with them visiting the General Accounting Office," the official said.
Greeks have viewed inspections visits by the lenders in Athens as a violation of the country's sovereignty and six-months of acrimonious negotiations with EU partners took place in Brussels at the government's request. Asked if the government would now allow EU, IMF and ECB mission chiefs to visit Athens for talks on a new loan, State Minister Alekos Flabouraris said: "If the agreement says that they should visit a ministry, we have to accept that."
The confusion around the expected start to the talks on Friday underlined the challenges ahead if negotiations are to be wrapped up in time for a bailout worth up to 86 billion euros to be approved in parliament by Aug. 20, as Greece intends.
Already, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is struggling to contain a rebellion in his left-wing Syriza party that made his government dependent on votes from pro-European opposition parties to get the tough bailout terms approved in parliament.
CALL FOR CLEAR SOLUTION
One of Tsipras' closest aides warned that the understanding with the opposition parties could not last long and a "clear" solution was needed, underlining widespread expectations that new elections may come as soon as September or October.
"The country cannot go on with a minority government for long. We need clear, strong solutions," State Minister Nikos Pappas told the weekly Ependysi in an interview published on Saturday.
Apart from the terms of a new loan, Greece and its lenders are also expected to discuss the sustainability of its debt, which is around 170 percent of GDP. Greece has repeatedly asked for a debt relief and the IMF has said this is needed for the Greek accord to be viable.
European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told Italy's La Stampa daily in an interview that a recent analysis on the issue "justified some concerns." He added a Greek exit from the euro was "certainly out of the question now."
Tsipras, who is by far the most popular politician in Greece according to opinion polls, has said his priority is to secure the bailout package before dealing with the political fallout from the Syriza party rebellion. According to a poll by Metron Analysis for Parapolitika newspaper on Saturday, 61 percent of Greeks had a positive view of Tsipras against 36 percent who disapproved. An overwhelming majority - 78 percent - still wanted Greece to stay in the euro zone against 19 percent in favor of going back to the drachma.
Tsipras insists there is no viable alternative to the bailout but has been wary of striking out against his party opponents in a bid to keep it together, at least while talks proceed.
Flabouraris called on Syriza rebels to drop their opposition. "They are still my comrades and I urge them to get back to their senses even at the last moment," he told Skai television. "They should realize that the Left movement is now in power. It's not an opposition party. Now we have to discuss the new landscape."