January 14, 2015 / 4:21 PM / 5 years ago

Call by Greece's Syriza for debt talks has merit: Irish deputy PM

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s deputy prime minister said on Wednesday she saw some merit in proposals by Greek leftist party Syriza for an international conference to renegotiate debts of Greece and some other euro zone states.

Syriza, which leads in opinion polls ahead of a Jan. 25 election, says it will cancel austerity imposed under Greece’s 240 billion euro bailout and renegotiate some debts.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has suggested a conference modeled on the 1953 meeting in London at which Western powers agreed to cut the debts of West Germany by 50 percent after World War Two. In December, he called for a similar “moment of solidarity” with Greece.

Joan Burton said Ireland was in a very different place regarding its debt levels and had already extended the maturity of and cut interest rates on loans received as part of its 2010 bailout. But further relief would be sought if available.

“I think the proposal has merit, as Minister Noonan indicated yesterday,” Burton said, referring to reports that Finance Minister Michael Noonan told a meeting of civil servants and Irish ambassadors on Tuesday that he would not dismiss the idea of Greek debt being discussed at such a conference.

“If there are proposals in a wider context in the European Union to look again at the issues that face countries on the periphery, then Ireland of course will look for any further relief that might be obtainable in that context.”

“We will look to maximize our benefit from any initiatives that are under taken in the wider European Union,” Burton added.

After footing the bill for the euro zone’s most expensive bank rescue, Ireland had wanted the bloc’s rescue fund to assume the burden of its bank debt, but Noonan has dropped those plans and is seeking to sell the banks instead.

Ireland was the second euro zone country after Greece to take a bailout, in 2010. But while Athens needed a second package, Ireland completed its rescue program just over a year ago and can now borrow from debt markets at record low rates.

The European Commission forecasts that Greek debt peaked at 175 percent of annual economic output in 2014 and will drop to 158 percent in 2016.

Ireland’s debt is set to fall to 106 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year, the Commission predicts, down from a peak of 123 percent in 2013.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans

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