Athens: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears confident that the reforms-for-cash debt deal Greece has been seeking for five months with creditors will be reached within 48 hours after Sunday’s referendum regardless of the result.
In an interview with local private television channel ANT1 on Thursday evening, the Leftist leader assured that Grexit was not an option for his government and that the hardships Greek people were suffering these days would soon be over.
Tsipras dismissed criticism that his initiative to call last Saturday, the referendum on the debt deal proposal submitted by creditors on June 25, was the catalyst to the banks’ closure and the introduction of capital controls since this Monday, Xinhua news agency reported.
He put the blame on the hardliners within the Eurogroup who rejected Athens’s request for a new extension of the bailout that expired on Tuesday midnight, when the country failed to repay a loan installment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and was declared in arrears status.
The referendum should have been held five years ago when Greece resorted to the EU/IMF bailouts, the Greek premier argued, so that citizens could decide on the course the country takes.
“Today people should not worry, because we will have a deal within 48 hours after the referendum,” Tsipras said on Thursday when asked whether banks would reopen next Tuesday, as his government has announced, and whether deposits face the spectre of a “haircut”.
“Banks will reopen with a deal soon, regardless of Sunday’s outcome,” he said, noting that on Monday he was ready to travel to Brussels to negotiate and sign an agreement.
“Grexit is not our option,” the Greek leader underlined. He stressed that his government still sought a “viable solution” for the Greek debt crisis within the European framework.
He insisted that a debt restructuring was the only way to ensure the sustainability of the Greek debt burden and subsequently of any deal with creditors, pointing to the IMF report released earlier on Thursday.
According to the IMF, the Greek debt load is unsustainable and Greece needs a debt relief in exchange of reforms and a new 50-billion euro ($5.5 billion) financing package until 2018 to stay afloat.
Tsipras avoided to state clearly on Thursday whether if “Yes” prevails against his government’s line he intended to step down, call general elections and leave another premier resume dialogue with lenders.
On the way to Sunday’s referendum, the risk of a rift within the two-party coalition government and political turmoil next week increased.
Five MPs of the junior Greek coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) party publicly rejected the referendum as divisive for Greek society on Thursday.
One of them who added that he intended to vote “Yes” on Sunday was expelled from ANEL’s parliamentary group.
He eventually resigned from his seat in parliament as asked and immediately replaced so the coalition still controls 161 seats in the 300-member assembly.
Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis has implied that he would quit the government should further cutbacks on expenditure in the health sector were implemented, while government sources rejected media reports that the leader of ANEL and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos has also threatened with resignation if defence cuts materialized.
As Tsipras was speaking on TV on Thursday night, the same government sources were also dismissing reports that one of his closest aides, the government’s General Secretary Spyros Sagias, had already submitted a letter of his resignation due to his objection to the “highly risky” referendum idea.