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Cyprus Government Holds Bailout Crisis Talks

DOHA, Qatar, Mar 20 2013 (Al Jazeera) - Political leaders in Cyprus are working on an alternative proposal to stave off bankruptcy after parliament overwhelmingly rejected an international bailout plan.

Nicos Anastasiades, president of Cyprus, has met party leaders and central bank officials on Wednesday to work out how they can raise billions of euros in funds to stave off bankruptcy.

The president also met representatives of his country’s potential creditors, from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission. However, no statement was issued on the result of those talks.

The talks come a day after MPs rejected terms set by the EU and IMF to raise money in return for the 13-billion-dollar bailout by seizing up to 10 percent of people’s bank savings, with zero votes in favour, 36 against and 19 abstentions.

Meanwhile, with Russian banks and individuals heavily invested in the island, Cyprus’ finance minister has asked Moscow for help to avert a financial meltdown.

Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said that a meeting had begun at the central bank to discuss a “Plan B” on how the administration could raise funds and reduce the 5.8 billion euros (7.5 billion dollars) that must be found domestically.

Central Bank deputy governor Spyros Stavrinakis said that no decision had been taken on when banks would reopen after they were shut at the weekend.

He said that the new plan being worked on Wednesday had not yet been presented to the EU and IMF.

Russia talks

Michael Sarris, Cyprus’ finance minister, said that he had reached no deal on financing with his Russian counterpart, Anton Siluanov, but talks were continuing.

Cypriot officials disclosed that the country’s energy minister was also in Moscow, ostensibly for a tourism exhibition.

Cyprus has found big gas reserves in its waters near Israel but has yet to develop them.

“We’ll now continue our discussion to find the solution by which we hope we will be getting some support,” Sarris said after initial talks with Siluanov.

ECB support

Austria’s finance minister made clear the European Central Bank (ECB) could soon pull the plug on Cypriot banks after the island’s parliament bailout rebuffal.

Not a single politician voted for the proposed levy that would have taken up to 10 percent from larger accounts, many of which are held by foreigners, while sparing smaller savers with fewer than 20,000 euros in the bank.

It was the first time a national legislature had rejected the conditions for EU assistance, after three years in which politicians in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy all accepted biting austerity measures to secure aid.

The ECB is keeping the Cypriot banking sector going by allowing the local central bank to extend emergency support.

It said it would end that if there was no bailout deal and it was clear the banks had no hope of becoming solvent again.

For now, the ECB says it will continue allowing banks access to credit. But analysts note that if there is no bailout deal within days, the ECB will have to end it.

*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.

 
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