NICOSIA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- A package of measures dubbed "plan B" was decided upon by Cypriot political leaders on Thursday, as the finance minister of financially distressed Cyprus is engaged in rescue talks with Russian officials in Moscow.
Cyprus has been given a reprieve until Monday by the European Central Bank (ECB), which has announced that it will continue providing emergency support to the crippled banking system until Monday.
"Thereafter, Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) could only be considered if an EU/IMF programme is in place that would ensure the solvency of the concerned banks," an ECB statement issued in Frankfurt said.
"Plan B" aims to raise 5.8 billion euros (7.48 billion U.S. dollars), the sum originally expected to be generated by imposing a scaled tax on bank deposits which was rejected on Tuesday by the Cypriot parliament.
Raising this sum has been set as a condition by international lenders for a 10-billion-euro rescue package for Cyprus, which is on the verge of a financial default.
The plan was discussed at a long emergency meeting of political leaders called by President Nicos Anastasiades early on Thursday.
No details of the plan were immediately announced, but Averof Neophytou, a close associate of Anastasiades, said that there had been a unanimous decision to establish a "Solidarity Fund".
Asked about the possibility of Russian support, Neophytou said "it is the will of all involved that we will remain in the eurozone, even if we can find help from any third country."
Neophytou refused to comment on a statement by the leader of another party that the issue of bringing back a tax on bank deposits was not discussed.
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs eurozone finance ministers, had earlier told the European Parliament's economic affairs committee in Brussels that a revised scheme for a deposits haircut was still on the table.
He said that large depositors in Cypriot banks must pay more towards an international bailout to avoid placing an unfair burden on small savers.
Neophytou said he was "reservedly confident" that a solution to the financial problems of Cyprus will be found and both the banking system and the economy will be stabilized, but warned that difficulties and recession will persist for a long time.
Reports said the "Solidarity Fund" will be endowed with money from pension funds and state assets and will be engaged in issuing emergency bonds which will be linked to revenue from natural gas exploitation.
Cyprus' Finance Minister Michael Sarris is continuing a second day of talks with Russian officials in Moscow on Russian investments in Cypriot banks and on cooperation in gas exploration and development.
Sarris said there were no stumbling issues in the negotiations but work to be done.
The Cypriot government announced on Wednesday that banks will remain closed for five more days as politicians and technocrats probe ways of urgently raising funds to close a gap created when parliament rejected a levy on bank deposits.
The ministry of finance issued a decree declaring Thursday and Friday as bank holidays. As Monday is also an established holiday, banks will re-open on March 26.
The government hopes that by that time it will be able to work out a way of raising 5.8 billion euros demanded by international lenders before they consent to a bailout for Cyprus worth 10 billion euros. (1 euro = 1.29 U.S. dollars)