IMF sees 'progress' on Greece loan talks

 

Bailout talks to help resolve Greece's pressing debt burden have made some progress but important matters remain unresolved, an International Monetary Fund spokesman said Thursday.

Greece is awaiting the next installment of an 86-billion-euro ($91.6 billion) aid package agreed in 2015 that it needs for debt repayments in July.

But talks between Athens and its eurozone and IMF creditors have been stalled for months.

Disagreements have focused on debt relief and budget targets for the austerity-hit country.

Greece is hoping a meeting Friday of eurozone finance ministers in Malta will yield a breakthrough on debt relief.

"There has been progress in the discussions but important issues remain outstanding. Discussions are continuing," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters Thursday, adding that the Fund hoped to send a mission to Athens soon.

"We need to see progress on the reform package on behalf of the Greek authorities and credible debt relief commitment in order for the IMF to go forward. That position has not changed," Rice said.

According to the IMF, Greece's debt is not sustainable and must be restructured or else it will not participate in the third round of the bailout that began in 2010.

The IMF partnered with the European Union in the prior two bailouts of the debt-wracked country, a member of the 19-nation eurozone that shares a single currency.

Athens says its economy is performing better than expected, so it should not be asked to take austerity measures beyond those agreed to as part of its current eurozone bailout which ends in 2018.

But European governments, with Germany foremost among them, have resisted debt relief and disagree with the Fund's position, calling instead for pension reforms, tax hikes and privatization.

The IMF has opposed further austerity for Greece while supporting some reforms.

Rice said Thursday that IMF staff would not present a proposal to the Fund's executive board that does not have "both legs" -- "credible economic reforms and credible commitment to debt relief."

Talks were continuing in Brussels, according to Rice, who declined to speculate on the prospects for reaching an agreement.

Greece notably is due to make a debt repayment to the European Central Bank of 1.3 billion euros in April, and 4.0 billion euros in July.

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