WASHINGTON Greece and its lenders made good progress in Washington toward reaching a deal that would unlock more loans for Athens, but work needs to continue next week before a crucial euro zone finance ministers' meeting on April 22, a key EU official said.
Talks on the reforms that Greece needs to implement have been suspended for the duration of the International Monetary Fund's meetings this week because all key players have travelled to Washington, where the meetings are taking place. They held bilateral meetings on Greece here.
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos met with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, IMF head Christine Lagarde and the chairman of euro zone ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem. IMF and European officials also discussed Greece in bilateral meetings.
"Good progress has been made in recent ... days and more still needs to be done to reach a point where we could conclude the review (of the Greek reforms)," European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said.
The conclusion of the review of Greek reforms is a condition for any new lending to Athens and for the start of any debt relief talks.
Moscovici noted that lenders' representatives would return to Athens next week to prepare ground for the next meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Amsterdam on April 22.
Moscovici said the Amsterdam talks were meant to "make significant progress", but depended on how much could be achieved in the run-up to the discussions next week.
"The political will to find an agreement is there on all sides," Moscovici said.
Greece needs to legislate a politically difficult pension reform, changes to the personal income tax system and deal with non-performing loans in the banking system.
"We need to have all the reforms ... legislated in a credible manner," Moscovici said.
Euro zone lenders and the IMF disagree on some targets set out in the latest Greek bailout, notably a primary surplus goal of 3.5 percent of GDP in 2018 and beyond. The Fund says it is unrealistic to expect Greece to keep such a surplus for decades.
"The memorandum of understanding (with Greece) does not speak about decades. The MoU speaks about 2018 and what we want to meet is 3.5 percent in 2018," Moscovici said.
The MoU says that "the (Greek) authorities will ... pursue a new fiscal path premised on primary surplus targets of -0.25, 0.5, 1.75, and 3.5 percent of GDP in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and beyond, respectively."
The "beyond" 2018 refers to maintaining the surplus from that year so that Greece can service its debt obligations.
The IMF believes the primary surplus goal should be set at 2.5 percent of GDP and the euro zone, Greece's main creditor, should grant the country debt relief, by extending maturities of loans and longer grace periods to allow for that.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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