Dutch, British waiting on new Iceland proposal

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands and Great Britain are ready to resume talks with Iceland on repayment of over $5 billion lost in the banking crisis, but are waiting for Iceland to propose terms, the Dutch finance ministry said.

“For new talks to be scheduled Iceland should first make a comprehensive proposal taking account of both sides’ interests,” a spokesman for the ministry said on Monday.

He added that Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager and Icelandic Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson spoke last week and agreed that the ball was now in Iceland’s court.

Great Britain and the Netherlands stepped in and provided over $5 billion in compensation to citizens who lost their savings in Iceland’s online banks when the country’s banking system collapsed in 2008.

The two EU nations want that money back, and the dispute over the debt has held up international aid vital to rebuilding Iceland’s economy.

In a March 6 referendum Icelanders overwhelmingly rejected an agreement passed by their parliament last year to repay the debt. Before the vote the Dutch and British had already proposed a better deal, including a floating interest rate and a two-year interest holiday.

The three sides held talks on that new proposal in the days leading up to the referendum but could not come to terms. Iceland’s foreign minister said last week he hoped talks would resume this week.

Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Noah Barkin