Skeptical European creditors raced Sunday to narrow differences both among themselves and with Athens, aiming to come up with a tentative agreement to stave off an immediate financial collapse in Greece that would reverberate across the continent.
Facing a self-imposed Sunday deadline, the European nations using the shared euro currency were still seeking more proof from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that he could be fully trusted to enact wide-ranging economic reforms to safeguard Greece's future in the common currency.
Greece has asked Europe's bailout fund for a 53.5 billion-euro ($59.5 billion) 3-year financial package but many officials in Brussels say the figure will have to be much higher. This would be Greece's third bailout in five years.
Rumors of Franco-German discord over what was still expected from Greece swirled around the talks between finance ministers Sunday in Brussels. A French official, however, insisted there were no fundamental differences between President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who were among the 19 eurozone leaders meeting later Sunday for a summit in Brussels.
"There is no fear of a rift and we will find strong cohesion," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
France is considered Greece's best friend and even helped Tsipras prepare the reform proposals that are his lifeline to international aid over the coming days or weeks. Germany, meanwhile, says Greece needs to do much more to get help or any debt relief.
Greece desperately needs help to avoid a financial collapse. The economy is in freefall and the country faces big debt repayments in the coming weeks. Greek banks have been shuttered for the best part of two weeks and daily withdrawals from ATMs have been limited to a paltry 60 euros ($67). The banks, according to some accounts, have barely enough cash to last through the week.
"We have lost so much time we cannot afford to lose time anymore," Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said as he arrived for talks Sunday. "We continue to work to establish the conditions to start negotiations, which is the real target. ... It is not about closing a deal."
Yet in a sign that a dramatic Greek exit from the euro would not happen Sunday, a full summit of the European Union's 28 leaders was cancelled. Instead, the eurozone's 19 leaders, including Tsipras, were meeting Sunday afternoon to assess the outcome of the finance ministers' talks and plot a further way ahead.
In an early morning tweet, Donald Tusk, who chairs meetings of European leaders, said the eurozone summit would start in mid-afternoon "and last until we conclude talks" on Greece.
Finance ministers broke up talks Saturday after more than eight hours with Greece's creditors unconvinced that the Tsipras government could be trusted to reform the Greek economy. They want iron-clad proof that it can deliver on promises to implement tough austerity and reform measures in return for billions more in rescue money — including making pension changes and sales tax increases.
"I would like to see the Greek government take concrete actions starting tomorrow in parliament to implement measures that are needed," Padoan said Sunday. "And then to rebuild trust that would allow concrete negotiations to move forward."