Greeks demonstrate in front of the country's parliament
Athens - AFP
Greece denied Friday having performed a U-turn in negotiations with its European creditors, as it struggles to stave off a bailout crisis and keep sweet an austerity-sick electorate at home.
"We have not abandoned our red lines," government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told ANT1 television in reference to the country's non-negotiable demand as officials prepared for crunch talks Friday with eurozone partners on a renegotiation of the Greece's bailout terms.
Although he said he was "optimistic" about a deal with Brussels, he "could not be sure" one would be reached.
Athens' formal request for a loan agreement to end the standoff was swiftly rejected by EU paymaster Germany on Thursday, despite Greece having offered what many analysts saw as major concessions to its demands.
"If the government had done a 180 degree turn, we would have signed (a deal) 10 days ago" during previous attempts to negotiate a deal with the eurozone, Sakellaridis said.
Athens' request for a six-month deal was "not a request to extend the programme or the assessment" carried out by the so-called troika of creditors, the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, he said.
In the leaked proposal, however, Athens had said that it was ready to accept EU, ECB and IMF "supervision" and would "refrain from unilateral action" that would undermine fiscal targets, economic recovery and financial stability.
Germany said the proposal submitted to Brussels on Thursday, which will be examined Friday at a high-stakes meeting of eurozone finance ministers, is too vague on details on how far Greece is prepared to give ground.
In what was seen by some as an olive branch, the government pushed back a parliamentary vote scheduled for Friday on social measures it wants to introduce to counter austerity policies it says has driven the Greek economy into the ground.
But Sakellaridis said it had been postponed solely because of a delay in the creation of parliamentary commissions.
Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras's radical left government swept to power at the end of January after a campaign based on pledges to renounce the current bailout deal signed by the previous conservative government.
Several editorialists in Greek newspapers claimed the ruling Syriza party was going back on its word.
"The Greek government has distanced itself greatly from its promise to drastically reduce debt, reject the memorandum (rules) in its entirety... cancel reforms, and not recognise the troika", the Kathimerini daily said.
The centre-left Ethnos newspaper said "people are worried... they feel the government has begun to give in to German pressure and have the impression that it could go even further."