ATHENS, Greece — Greece's prime minister was hoping to meet with the leaders of Germany and France in Brussels Wednesday, in the latest effort to break a bailout negotiation deadlock that has revived fears his country could default and drop out of the euro.
The expected meeting — on the sidelines of a European Union-Latin America summit — comes as the European Commission says Greek proposals for a deal, including additional amendments made this week, are still not good enough to unlock vitally needed bailout funds.
"For this final push the Commission is of the view that the ball is clearly now in the court of the Greek government," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said in Brussels.
Greece has three weeks left to conclude a deal with its creditors before its bailout program expires at the end of the month, when it will also have to repay about 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to the International Monetary Fund. It is desperate for the disbursal of the final 7.2 billion euros in rescue loans, without which it cannot continue to repay its international debts.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is hoping to make headway Wednesday night with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the largest contributor to Greece's bailout, and French President Francois Hollande.
Though Greek officials said the three will meet on the summit sidelines, neither German nor French officials were confirming the meeting would take place. However, Merkel recently indicated she would have an opportunity to speak to Tsipras on Wednesday.
The two sides are at odds over what reforms Greece must make in return for its remaining bailout loans. Each side has submitted its own proposals. But talks have been deadlocked since Athens rejected the creditors' suggestions as irrational last Friday, saying they would make life harder for Greeks already reeling from five years of deep spending cuts and soaring unemployment.
Greek government officials say Athens has received no response to its 47-page proposal delivered by Tsipras to European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker last week, or to two documents with alternative proposals sent to the EU's economic affairs commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, on Monday. A Greek negotiating team has remained in Brussels for discussions.
However, Schinas said Moscovici had informed the government Tuesday afternoon "that their latest suggestions do not reflect the state of discussions between President Juncker and Prime Minister Tsipras Wednesday night and those between Commissioner Moscovici and the Greek ministers Monday afternoon."
Schinas said the Commission's vice president, Vladis Dombrovskis, has said it is still possible to move forward, and that there was flexibility to replace certain measures suggested by the creditors with "other fiscally equal measures, especially in the areas of VAT (sales taxes) and pensions."
However, Schinas noted Dombrovskis had stressed the importance of agreeing on targets for a primary surplus — the budget excluding debt and interest payments. Athens has been arguing for lower primary surpluses than creditors demand, saying that insisting on high primary surpluses curtails the amount of funds that can be spent on the country and causes unnecessary hardship.
Tsipras' radical left Syriza party won early elections in January on promises of repealing the harsh austerity measures that accompanied Greece's 240 billion euro bailout program.
With the country facing a severe cash crunch ahead of a steep debt repayment schedule over the next three months, he has agreed to make some concessions, although he insists he will not cross certain "red lines," such as imposing further pension and salary cuts.
Tsipras must also face down hardliners within his own party, many of which have called for a break in relations with creditors and for Greece to go it alone, even if it means leaving the euro.
Casert reported from Brussels. Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.