Luxembourg: Eurozone ministers said they were optimistic about reaching a bailout deal with Greece to unlock sorely needed rescue cash Thursday but warned Athens would have to wait for a deal on future debt relief.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde and the eurozone's 19 finance ministers meet in Luxembourg with hopes riding high that the talks will secure the release of the latest tranche of Greece's 86-billion euro ($97 billion) bailout agreed in 2015.
Athens is set to get a payout of 8.5 billion euros to meet debt payments due in July and avoid another summer of Greek crisis.
But ministers said that while Greece would get more "clarity" on a long-desired agreement on cutting its mountain of debt, there could be no actual deal on that subject until later.
"I remain confident that we will find an agreement today on the payment of the latest tranche (of Greece's bailout)," said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the eurozone's most powerful official, as he arrived for the talks.
"Optimistic," his Greek counterpart Euclid Tsakalotos said, marking a clear change to his more negative mood earlier in the week.
The upbeat feeling was shared by Greece's biggest eurozone partners, with Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem saying a compromise good for all sides was on the table.
"I hope that today we will take a very positive step forward," said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch Finance Minister.
However, "today will not be the meeting where we take final decisions on what size of debt relief," Dijsselbloem cautioned.
Athens all week insisted it would veto the deal, furious that the latest disbursement from its third bailout since 2010 could come without firm debt relief commitments after it delivered on tough reforms.
But Dijsselbloem said the ministers would agree to more "clarity" on debt relief, to be delivered at the end of Greece's bailout in 2018, even if exact figures would only be provided later.
'Question of goodwill'
Bitter disagreement between Germany and the International Monetary Fund has held up the payout of a fresh tranche for Athens to meet seven billion euros of debt repayments due in July.
The IMF, which took part in Greece's two previous bailouts, has long insisted that more debt relief be part of a deal.
But Berlin, Greece's sternest critic, has resisted any fresh commitment to debt relief, saying Athens did not need it and must continue reforms.
In a major breakthrough, the IMF's Lagarde agreed this month to join Greece's massive bailout while putting off the debt question until later.
The IMF compromise was a shock for the Greek government as it suddenly lost a major backer of deeper debt relief.
The Fund's move is controversial, with critics accusing the Washington-based organisation of bending its rules to satisfy Berlin.
"We have been as constructive as possible while still respecting our principles because we are committing money from the international community," Lagarde, a former French finance minister, said in defence of the fund.
The IMF had insisted repeatedly that Greece's debt is not sustainable, and that the country would require significant debt relief from Europe before the fund could approve a new loan programme.
Greece nearly crashed out of the euro in 2015 after a furious fight over the bailout deal and says its fragile recovery has suffered from the most recent delay.
In an emotional editorial published on Wednesday in France, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the meeting was "essential" for the "future of Europe".
Without a deal, Tsipras said he would take up the issue with EU leaders at a summit in Brussels next week, a situation that the eurozone ministers intended to avoid.
"It's a question of goodwill and it's a question of willingness," said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, whose country has long taken a softer line on Greece than Germany.
"If everyone around the table makes a very slight and positive move in the right direction we should be able to find an agreement today," he said.
Published Date: Jun 15, 2017 10:19 pm | Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 10:19 pm