IMF, ECB chiefs join Merkel, Hollande, Juncker for Greek debt talks

[BERLIN] IMF chief Christine Lagarde and ECB president Mario Draghi unexpectedly joined the leaders of France and Germany as well as European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker in Berlin late on Monday for talks on Greece's debt crisis, diplomatic sources said.

The aim of the late-night meeting attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande was to come up with "a final proposal" to present to Athens, according to German daily Die Welt.

But the German chancellor's office said after the meeting only that the quintet agreed to work together "intensely" in the coming days and would stay in "close contact in the coming days".

The newspaper, citing sources close to the talks, said the Berlin talks began at 1930 GMT and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Athens "awaiting a phone call from the troika", as Greece's creditors are known.

According to a diplomatic source, the group did not telephone the Greek premier during the meeting.

The diplomatic push comes as cash-strapped Greece remains locked in tough negotiations with international creditors in a bid to release 7.2 billion euros (US$7.9 billion) in remaining bailout funds.

A deal has so far proved elusive as the creditors - the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank - are demanding greater reforms in return for the cash, which Greece's anti-austerity government has refused to match.

The country faces a key deadline on Friday when it is due to repay 300 million euros to the IMF. There are fears Greece does not have the necessary funds and will default, possibly setting off a chain of events that could end with a messy exit from the euro.

Ms Merkel, Mr Hollande and Mr Juncker met for scheduled talks earlier Monday but the evening arrivals of Ms Lagarde and Mr Draghi came as a surprise.

The impromptu gathering followed a phone conference Sunday between Ms Merkel, Mr Hollande, Mr Juncker and Mr Tsipras, which Ms Merkel's spokeswoman described as "constructive".

Mr Juncker earlier told another German newspaper that Greece's woes would feature heavily in Monday's Berlin discussions, as he reiterated his opposition to a so-called "Grexit".

"I don't share this idea that we'd have fewer concerns and constraints if Greece gave up the euro," he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.



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