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June 16, 2017

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Greece ‘optimistic’ on securing deal

GREECE said it was hopeful of securing a deal yesterday that could end months of eurozone feuding with the IMF and unlock sorely needed bailout cash for Greece to avert a fresh crisis.

Athens will likely have to wait for a long-desired agreement on wider debt relief, but officials said it would at least receive more “clarity” on the way ahead.

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 (US$97 billion) bailout agreed in 2015.

“Optimistic,” Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said in a terse comment to reporters as he entered the talks, marking a clear change to the negative mood earlier in the week.

The upbeat feeling was shared by Greece’s biggest eurozone partners, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin also expressing confidence that Greece “will be rewarded for its efforts.”

“I hope that today we will take a very positive step forward. Building on the huge step that Greece put in,” Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch Finance Minister, said in Luxembourg.

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 delivering 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 the exact figures would only be provided later.

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 agreed this month to join Greece’s massive bailout while putting off the debt question until a later date.

The IMF compromise was a shock for the Greek government, which lost a major supporter of deeper debt relief.


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