ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras maintained his refusal to consider further pension cuts to unlock financial aid after meeting Austria’s Chancellor, who travelled to Athens seeking an eleventh-hour solution to keeping Greece in the euro zone.
Werner Faymann - one of the European leaders most sympathetic to the Greek government’s demands for an end to austerity - met with Tsipras for nearly two hours on Wednesday at the prime minister’s office in Athens.
But there was little sign of movement from Tsipras who sees further pension cuts to low earners, a core component of demands for more economic reforms from Greece’s international lenders, as a red line his leftist Syriza party will not cross.
“The margins for new cuts in pensions have been exhausted.
We can’t understand the obsession of the lenders with pension cuts,” Tsipras told reporters after the meeting.
“...If we don’t have an honourable compromise and an economically viable solution, we will take the responsibility to say no to the continuation of a catastrophic policy.”
Faymann coordinated his visit with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
It comes a day before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers, seen as possibly the last chance to stop Greece sliding into a default that would push it towards the euro exit door.
“I can’t see a solution lying before me but I see that if we are convinced we want one, we have a good chance,” the centre-left Austrian leader said.
He said he could not imagine a prosperous and peaceful future for Europe if Greece left the euro zone, and said he knew that Juncker wanted to find a compromise.
“So it is a joint task for Europe, including the euro zone, to look forward to the future together,” he said.
Negotiations to free up 7.2 billion euros in funding from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have been deadlocked, raising fears that Greece will unable to meet a 1.6 billion euro payment to the IMF due on June 30.
After days of barbs and finger-pointing between Athens, Brussels and Berlin over the failure of talks at the weekend, Faymann struck a conciliatory tone, saying the two sides had to talk as equals, without “gloating or Schadenfreude”.
“I personally think it is sensible not to impose further cuts on pensions, particularly low-income pensions,” he said.
“But I think you have to offer something in exchange in negotiations,” he said. “I have had some signs that the prime minister and the government are working on these counterproposals.”
Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and James Mackenzie; editing by John Stonestreet