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Greek minister changes tone, calls Schaeuble meeting "very helpful"

Monday, June 8, 2015 - 21:16

[BERLIN] Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis struck a conciliatory note on Monday in a long battle over a cash-for-reforms deal, calling a meeting with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin helpful.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' outright rejection of a proposal from Greece's international lenders last week prompted an angry response from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker over the weekend.

"Today's conversation will be very helpful to find a final solution," Mr Varoufakis said after his meeting with Schaeuble in the German finance ministry, without giving further details.

Mr Varoufakis said the talks took place in an "extremely friendly manner", adding that both ministers had a common understanding of the problem.

"It is a duty for us politicians to try to find an agreement. This is absolutely essential for the European Union,"he said.

A German finance ministry spokesman declined to comment on the meeting, adding both ministers had agreed confidentiality.

In an interview with German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, however, Varoufakis criticised the latest proposal by Athens' lenders as counterproductive.

"You only make such a proposal if you actually don't want to reach an agreement at all," Mr Varoufakis said, according to interview excerpts published on Monday. He also repeated Athens'call for debt restructuring.

Mr Varoufakis, who joined the radical left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after January's election, has vehemently resisted the painful economic measures that Greece's creditors say are necessary to steady its finances.

However his outspoken remarks have sometimes seemed counter-productive and Tsipras sidelined him last month when he re-shuffled his team to negotiate with the lenders.

On Sunday, Mr Varoufakis called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to give his country a "Speech of Hope", to signal Europe was ready to end its demands for austerity, similar to that given to Germany at the end of World War Two.

In Berlin, Mr Varoufakis is also expected to meet lawmakers from governing and opposition parties in the afternoon and to give a speech in the evening on Greece's future in Europe.

REUTERS