Greek Debt Relief Talks Hit an Impasse

Posted January 25th, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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Negotiations to cut half of the debt Greece owes its private creditors have hit an impasse.

Major lenders have agreed to forgive about $130 billion of the debt that the Athens government owes them. But negotiations have stalled over what interest rate the creditors will accept on Greece’s revised financial obligations.

Leaders of 32 financial institutions owed money by Greece met in Paris Wednesday to discuss their next step, before returning to Athens Thursday for more talks. They are seeking a 4 percent interest rate on the revamped debt. But European leaders are pressing them to adopt a 3.5 percent return to help debt-ridden Greece regain its economic footing in the coming years.

European leaders say Greece needs to complete the deal with its private creditors — and impose more unpopular austerity measures — before they will approve another $169 billion bailout for it. That would be Greece’s second international aid package in two years, money the country says it needs to avoid defaulting on its financial obligations in March.

Analysts fear that a default by Greece — because it is part of the 17-nation bloc that uses the common euro currency — could send the world’s economies into a recession. Business and political leaders have been pressing European governments to move more decisively to solve the two-year crisis.

The chief executive of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, Peter Voser, called for urgent action as he attended the World Economic Forum of elite business leaders in Davos, Switzerland. “We can’t wait too long,” he said. “It’s two minutes before midnight.”

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said Europe’s public creditors, such as the European Central Bank, need to help cut the Greek debt if the country cannot reach agreement with the private lenders. But news agencies reported that the continent’s central bank, which holds as much as $58 billion in Greek debt, is opposed to any writedown of Greek debt, as is Germany, the continent’s economic powerhouse.