NEW YORK (AP) — Argentina's economy minister emerged from daylong negotiations aimed at preventing a default Tuesday to say both sides had finally spoken for the first time, a development that raised hopes that a deal might be reached to avert a financial crisis.
Minister Axel Kicillof made the revelation shortly before midnight as he left talks he had joined several hours earlier.
Shortly afterward, court-appointed mediator Daniel A. Pollack issued a statement saying Kicillof had led a delegation that met lawyers for U.S. bondholders trying to collect about $1.5 billion they are owed by Argentina.
He said the two sides met several hours in his office and in his presence.
"These were the first face-to-face talks between the parties. There was a frank exchange of views and concerns. The issues that divide the parties remain unresolved," he said.
Although Kicillof said the negotiations would resume Wednesday, Pollack mentioned the deadline day with more caution.
"Whether and when the parties will meet tomorrow (July 30) remains to be determined overnight," he said in the statement issued just before midnight.
Argentina faces a deadline midnight Wednesday when it must either meet its bond obligations or plunge into a default for the second time in 13 years.
A federal judge last week had ordered around-the-clock negotiations, but sporadic talks did not seem to take on a sense of urgency until a team of negotiators from Argentina showed up Tuesday morning.
Kicillof arrived seven hours later to meet with lawyers for U.S. hedge funds that bought Argentina's bonds on the cheap and are now demanding payment.
U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa had ordered Argentina to pay the U.S. bondholders if the South American nation also pays the other 92 percent of bondholders who swapped their bonds for less valuable ones in the last decade.
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