Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on his fractious Syriza party to rally behind the government on Tuesday as time runs critically short to unlock funding from international lenders and avert a debt default.
Tsipras made his plea as Greek negotiators pushed to narrow differences with the European Union and IMF creditors over a cash-for-reform deal on which the country’s future in the euro largely depends.
The two sides were expected to continue talks through Tuesday to try to hammer out a deal, in a sign that they were moving closer to a compromise despite fierce protestations about the inadequacy of the other side’s proposals.
With the Brussels negotiations entering a decisive phase, European officials took a tough stand, expressing their frustration with Greek negotiating tactics and trying to impress on Athens the depth of the risks that it is running.
“We will do everything to keep Greece in the euro zone … but our patience is running out,” Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb said.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, dampened any expectations that a new Greek proposal promising more reforms and austerity in return for funding might offer an easy route to a deal.
“I’ve heard a lot of optimism from the Greek side, and it’s an underestimation of the complexity of what’s being asked of them,” Dijsselbloem told the Dutch RTL Nieuws TV station.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to meet Tsipras on Wednesday along with French President Francois Hollande, has already stressed the urgent need for a settlement.
Greece’s bailout program with the EU and International Monetary Fund expires at the end of this month, and Athens must make a 1.6 billion euro debt repayment to the IMF by then, money that it currently does not appear to have.
Tsipras issued his call for unity at a meeting of Syriza’s political committee, which represents the party’s factions ranging from pro-Europeans to hardline communists.
“Alexis Tsipras believes we are now at the most crucial point of the negotiations and the party must play a substantial role in supporting the government in this effort,” a government official said in a statement after the meeting.