Greece and creditors 'close' to deal on third bailout
Greece and its creditors were to continue talks Monday after marathon discussions late into the night, with both sides indicating that the terms of a third bailout were close to being finalised.
The finance and economy ministers, Euclid Tsakalotos and Giorgos Stathakis, were back at the negotiating table with the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Stability Mechanism at 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) Sunday and were still talking eight hours later. They are finalising the draft of a crucial new bailout of up to 86 billion euros ($94 billion) in exchange for further reforms before the debt-ridden country must repay 3.4 billion euros to the European Central Bank on August 20. Talks were going well and could be wrapped up on Tuesday, an EU source told AFP, adding that discussions had narrowed down the list of priority actions that Athens must commit to. "We need to have an agreement here on Tuesday and all the parties are working towards it," the source added.
A speedy accord would allow the bailout to kick in before the August 20 debt repayment deadline. Stathakis said ahead of Saturday's negotiations that the talks were "in the final stretch". On Sunday, pro-government newspaper Avgi said: "All signs are pointing to an agreement". It added that parliament could vote on the accord this week, or that eurozone finance ministers could approve it first on Friday, after which parliament would vote on it on August 18. Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Sunday that the Greek government would likely approve a 27page draft memorandum of reform commitments this weekend to allow the new bailout to go through before August 20.
An agreement will have to be reached by August 17 to prevent Greece from having to ask for a bridging loan to avoid another loan default. The cashstrapped country already missed two key payments to the IMF that were due on June 30 and July 13, but the repayments -- amounting to around two bil- lion euros -- were later made possible with a short-term EU loan. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is also under pressure from many in his radical left Syriza party who say the new accord will pile further austerity on a weakened economy and goes against the party's campaign pledges. But with his popularity among Greeks still high, Tsipras has warned the dissidents of early elections in the autumn if they continue to resist the measures.
Former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who has voted against the new bailout agreement, has dismissed it as "a negotiating fiasco" and said Tsipras could not "avoid the outcry by resorting guiltily and hurriedly to elections".