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Ahead of election, Greece seeks German war debt talks

1 min 18Approximate reading time

Greece's leftist government has called on Germany to discuss the payment of war crime reparations a month before elections where it faces defeat.

The foreign ministry in Berlin on Wednesday confirmed having received the verbal note, which Athens said "calls on the German side to come to negotiations to resolve the pending issue".

A Greek parliamentary committee last year determined that Germany owes Greece at least 270 billion euros ($300 billion) for World War I damages and looting, atrocities and a forced loan during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

In addition, the Greek state accounting office has estimated that private claims for war dead and invalids could be worth an additional 107 billion euros.

The move, announced in Athens on Tuesday by the foreign ministry, comes ahead of early elections on July 7.

Reclaiming war reparations has been a campaign pledge by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras since 2015.

He trails in the polls and is currently battling to galvanise his Syriza party after losing European and local elections over the last two weeks.

The Greek parliament in April also voted through a resolution demanding the payment of reparations.

With cross-party support, the chamber had approved the resolution to call on the government "to take all the necessary diplomatic and legal steps to claim and fully satisfy all the demands of the Greek state stemming from World War I and World War II".

During a visit to Greece in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country "recognised its historical responsibility".

"We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece," she said.

In 2014, then president Joachim Gauck sought public forgiveness in the name of Germany from relatives of those murdered by the Nazis in the mountains of northern Greece.

But when it comes to actual payments, Berlin has always insisted that the issue was settled in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.

Tsipras had put German reparations on the backburner in recent years as he worked with German Chancellor German Merkel to keep Greece in the euro and manage migration and Balkans security.

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