Greece could reach a deal with its international creditors if they dropped demands including cuts to pensions, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera published on Tuesday.
Reflecting the more conciliatory tone Athens has adopted in recent days, he said the two sides could find a compromise on key elements in any deal, including the size of a primary budget surplus. But he showed no signs of accepting creditor demands for cuts to pensionsor other social spending, repeating comments he has made over recent days.
“I think we’re very close to an agreement on the primary surplus for the next few years,” he told the newspaper. “There just needs to be a positive attitude on alternative proposals to cuts to pensions or the imposition of recessionary measures.”
The comments came as Greece’s international partners, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank officials, have warned that time is rapidly running out.
Tsipras is due to meet Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday to try to break the impasse that has raised fears Greece could be forced out of the euro zone, with unforeseeable consequences for the single currency and the wider world economy.
After dismissing the latest proposal from the European Union and International Monetary Fund as “absurd” last week, the leftwing government in Athens has signalled it is willing to compromise but continues to reject what it sees as unfairly punishing austerity measures.
“We cannot continue with a programme that has clearly failed,” Tsipras said.
The months-long standoff has led to increasing speculation that Greece’s European partners could be willing to allow it to be forced out of the euro, relying on a series of firewalls built up over recent years to limit the wider fallout.
But Tsipras said he was confident they would pull back.
“It would be the beginning of the end of the eurozone,” he said. “If Greece fails, the markets will immediately go to look for the next one. If negotiations fail, the cost for European taxpayers would be enormous,” he said.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Heneghan)