Greece must reach an outline funding agreement with its lenders at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on April 24, its finance minister told a Greek newspaper yesterday.
“At the eurogroup [meeting] of April 24 there must be a preliminary conclusion [of the talks], as per the eurogroup accord on Feb. 20,” Yanis Varoufakis told daily Naftemporiki.
Greece offered a new package of reforms last week in the hope of unlocking remaining funds from its bailout program, but its EU and IMF lenders have yet to sign up to the proposals.
Athens has not received bailout aid since August last year and has been hard pressed to cover payments amid a cash crunch, resorting to measures such as borrowing from state entities to tide it over.
A source with knowledge of the issue last month said that Greece had enough funds to last it until April 20.
Varoufakis said on Sunday following a meeting with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde that Greece intended to meet all obligations to all its creditors, moving to quell fears of a possible default ahead of a 450 million euro (US$494.2 million) IMF loan repayment later this week.
He told the paper the new leftist-led government, confronted with a liquidity squeeze, wanted negotiations to be concluded “as soon as possible,” but would not accept terms that suffocated the economy.
“We are not going to condemn the country, as previous governments did, to a long-term asphyxiation,” Varoufakis told the paper, suggesting the EU/IMF lenders had treated the previous conservative-led government more leniently.
“The negotiations will end when we reach an honorable agreement, which will give the Greek economy the prospect of real stabilization and substantive growth,” Varoufakis said.
Asked whether he had thought of quitting the job, Varoufakis said: “Not for one minute.”
Lagarde said in a statement after meeting with Varoufakis that she welcomed his confirmation that the loan payment due would be made on schedule.
“I welcomed confirmation by the minister that payment owing to the fund would be forthcoming on April 9th,” Lagarde said.
She said due diligence efforts in Athens and talks with teams in Brussels over the terms of Greece’s bailout would “resume promptly on Monday.”
Greece is fast running out of cash, but the bailout extended by the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank has been frozen until the leftist-led government reaches agreement on a package of reforms.
After a first set of planned measures failed to impress lenders, Athens offered a more detailed package on Wednesday.
However, it arrived too late to be discussed at a teleconference with eurozone deputy finance ministers.
The government is hoping approval of its reform proposals will free up the remaining aid of 7.2 billion euros under its bailout and lead to the return of about 1.9 billion euros in profits made by the European Central Bank on Greek bonds.
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