Crucial Tsipras-Merkel talks

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GREEK Prime Minister Tsipras is meeting German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin today, with officials in Brussels, Berlin and the ECB now openly acknowledging the risk that Greece could leave the eurozone.

Ahead of the visit, Tsipras said the meeting would be ‘an opportunity to talk without the pressure of any negotiation’.

‘It’s important because we will be able to talk about topics which are damaging Europe, and about how to improve relations between our two countries,’ he added.

Merkel said last week she was looking forward to in-depth talks with Tsipras, who is to be received with military honours at 1800 GMT. ‘We will have some time to talk in detail, and perhaps even argue,’ Merkel said last week.

ECB President Mario Draghi will address the European Parliament committee today, with Greece and the progress of the ECB’s quantitative easing programme top of the agenda.

At the European Union summit last Friday Merkel said Greece would only receive fresh funds once its creditors approve a comprehensive list of reforms it has promised but so far failed to produce.

Tsipras claimed that Greece faces no short-term liquidity problem, contradicting comments by EU officials that Athens could run out of money in mid-April.

However, Barclays Capital, in a research note issued last Friday, said that Greece would soon be imposing restrictions on bank withdrawals to avoid the ‘self-destructive spiral of a fully-fledged bank run’.

Meanwhile, four Greek doctors of the Korydallos prison near Athens, O. Kosmopoulou, P. Vegopoulou, S. Sakkas and V. Korvesi, in a written statement issued on Saturday, have described as ‘extremely worrying’ the condition of the 22 prisoners who have reached 20 days on hunger strike.

The doctors, who have examined the prisoners, said that there are no adequate medical facilities in Greek prisons.

They also accused doctors at a state hospital of refusing medical treatment to a prisoner.

The 22 prisoners, all convicted on so-called ‘terrorist’ charges, are demanding the shutting down of the high security prisons, the release of Savas Xiros – of the 17th November group – on health grounds, as well as the release of family relatives of persons imprisoned on terrorist charges.

Last week students of the Athens University Law School staged an occupation and carried out a demonstration in support of the prisoners’ demands.

For over a week now the Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos has stated that he will sign orders for the release of the prisoners’ relatives, and of Savas Xiros, and for the closing down of the high security prisons.