EU leaders welcomed a pledge from Greece to meet creditors' demands for a broad package of economic reform proposals within days to unlock the cash Athens needs to avoid stumbling out of the euro zone.
After overnight crisis talks on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered somewhat divergent understandings of how much Athens must do and how quickly.
But EU officials insisted there was abroad agreement to act now on an accord struck a month ago.
Ms Merkel said Greece, which faces a cash crunch within weeks, would receive fresh funds only once its creditors approve the comprehensive list of reforms Mr Tsipras promised to present soon.
But she signalled some flexibility on what reforms Mr Tsipras would have to make - crucially giving his leftist-led coalition the chance to offer alternative savings strategies that will help it persuade its voters it is breaking with what Mr Tsipras calls the failed austerity policies of his defeated predecessor.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered Mr Tsipras a sweetener by saying €2 billion from the EU’s modest collective budget was available to ease the humanitarian impact of five years of spending cuts.
Mr Tsipras said he would fully respect a deal struck with euro zone finance ministers on February 20 that extended an EU bailout deal until June.
But he insisted that a condition in that pact requiring Athens to pass a final review of its efforts to bring its debts under control before receiving funds did not apply.
After two months of mounting frustration on both sides, marked by public squabbling, Mr Tsipras held three hours of talks with the leaders of Germany, France and the main EU institutions to try to break an impasse that risks depriving Athens of the euros it needs to function fully within the currency area.
A joint statement by the EU institutions spoke of a "spirit of mutual trust". But it remained uncertain Mr Tsipras and Ms Merkel were talking about the same reforms, and how far Greece would have to start implementing them before it receives any new cash.
The risk of a continued stand-off, exactly a month after Greece secured a last-gasp four-month extension of an EU/IMFbailout, was highlighted by comments from Ms Merkel and Mr Tsipras.
"The agreement of February 20 is still valid in its entirety. Every paragraph of the agreement counts," Ms Merkel told German journalists who questioned whether she was now offering cash for promises that many of her supporters have stopped believing in.
Mr Tsipras appeared to differ. "It is clear that Greece is not obliged to implement recessionary measures," he said. "Greece will submit its own structural reforms which it will implement."
Ms Merkel insisted only the completion of approved measures -in a final review by creditor institutions - would satisfy lenders including the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers.
Mr Tsipras, however, insisted that while his government would fully respect a deal struck with the euro zone on February 20 it would not have to complete a final bailout review process begun by the last government to secure more aid: "We all have the same reading of the February 20 accord.
“There is no such thing as a fifth review," he told a news conference after the summit.
EU officials, keen to play up the prospects the talks had raised of preventing ‘Grexit’, or an inadvertent ‘Grexident’ that pushed Greece out of the euro, said differences were merely ones of emphasis for audiences in their respective countries.
One EU official said Mr Tsipras, who will visit Ms Merkel in Berlin on Monday, had indicated he could offer a full package of reforms within a week or 10 days.
Nonetheless, with some German leaders saying they might prefer Greece out of the euro zone, and Mr Tsipras trying to satisfy a coalition of radicals unused to power, senior EU officials do not rule out a further collapse of the process.
EU officials said that if Athens came up with a convincing plan, the Eurogroup could meet as early as next week to release at least some funds.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has criticised remarks made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny about Greece.
Mr Adams said Mr Kenny's remarks at the EU summit in Brussels "show that he has moved from being the architect of austerity in Ireland to an austerity adviser to the EU elite."
He added that although both Greece and Ireland had an unfair debt burden imposed on their citizens, Mr Kenny has consistently taken the side of the EU against the people of Greece.