March 21, 2013
Cyprus Leaders Under Pressure to Avoid Debt Default
Cypriot leaders scrambled Thursday to raise $7.5 billion to avoid a debt default for the island nation, but the European Central Bank warned it would cut off emergency funding Monday if the country cannot resolve its financial crisis.
In Moscow, Cypriot finance officials continued negotiations with Russian leaders over possible new funding. Meanwhile, in Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, officials discussed restructuring the country's debt-ridden banks and raising money from domestic sources, such as pension funds and the subsidiaries of foreign banks operating on the island.
Several lawmakers said they have abandoned the idea of taxing bank deposits, the controversial measure that was part of the $13 billion Cyprus rescue plan agreed to by the country's international lenders. After depositors angrily protested the proposed tax, the Cypriot parliament overwhelmingly rejected it this week.
But with that action, Cypriot leaders were faced with finding other ways to secure the emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund, Europe's central bank and the island's neighbors in 17-nation euro currency bloc.
One leader of the country's ruling Democratic Party, Averof Neophytou, said he thinks a solution will be reached.
"We are working very hard. There is only one target, to save our economy and our country," Neophytou said. "I believe that the political parties will show the necessary responsibility for the survival of the Cypriot economy."
Cypriot banks are closed until Tuesday to prevent panicked investors from withdrawing large sums. But anxious depositors lined up outside automated teller machines to take out limited amounts.
If it eventually secures a bailout, Cyprus is planning on using much of the money to refund its beleaguered banks that have been weighed down with losses on Greek government bonds that were reduced in value to help resolve the Athens debt crisis.