The prime minister of debt-laden Greece has risked a deterioration of relations with Germany on an official visit to the country by stating his case for World War Two reparations.
Alexis Tsipras told reporters at a news conference with chancellor Angela Merkel: “We aren’t linking it to the current discussion on the European crisis and Greece’s position in the eurozone, and the need to quickly find a solution to move forward.”
“It’s primarily a moral issue and not a material one,” he said, adding it was time to overcome “shadows of the past”.
However, the Greek leader and his ministers have invoked Nazi war crimes as part of their drive to renegotiate the terms of Athens’ €240bn (£175bn) bailout with their eurozone partners.
Ms Merkel stuck to her government’s contention that “the question of reparations has been politically and legally settled” with a 1960 accord with Greece and a payment at that time.
The official visit was originally seen by both countries as an opportunity to rebuild relations – damaged intensely by the fallout from the economic rescue of Greece at the height of the euro area’s debt crisis.
Germans complain that rather than express gratitude for the financial support delivered, the Greek government is dredging up the past in an attempt to find another way to pay off its national debt of more than €320bn (£234bn).
Demands range from €3.5bn (£2.5bn) to €162bn (£118bn) though Mr Tsipras has confirmed he would not allow a court ruling authorising land-grabs to go ahead.
Athens has accused Berlin of being inflexible in its approach to easing the effects of austerity on the Greek people.
The leftist Syriza government is currently working on a programme of reforms demanded of it by its creditors in return for an extension of its bailout conditions.
There are fears the country could run out of money within weeks without agreement on the budget cuts from the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It is due to receive another €7.2bn (£5.1bn) if its delayed reform plans are passed.
The country’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, announced on Monday he had cancelled planned speaking events in London on Tuesday as he worked towards finalising the proposals, which are expected to be submitted next week.