Newspaper article International New York Times

Greece Vows Timely Loan Payment ; Finance Minister Insists Deal to Unlock Funds Is near, but Signs Are Scarce

Newspaper article International New York Times

Greece Vows Timely Loan Payment ; Finance Minister Insists Deal to Unlock Funds Is near, but Signs Are Scarce

Article excerpt

The Greek finance minister says Athens is getting closer to a deal with its international creditors that would unlock 7.2 billion euros in bailout funds.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Thursday that Greece would make its next major loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund on time, but there were few signs of an immediate breakthrough in a long-running stalemate between the government in Athens and its international creditors.

By making the payment of about 750 million euros, or $844 million, by Tuesday, Greece would tamp down speculation that the country would soon default on its huge debts and destabilize the eurozone economy. But the payment represents just one of several serious financial challenges facing Greece, which include government payrolls and a series of far bigger loan repayments.

"We intend to pay every creditor," Mr. Varoufakis told a lunch meeting at the European Business Summit in Brussels. "We certainly intend to pay the I.M.F., and we will pay."

Mr. Varoufakis has appeared increasingly embattled after sharp criticism from eurozone finance ministers weary of his confrontational style, and after the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, downgraded his prominence in negotiations with international lenders.

But Mr. Varoufakis is still expected to represent Greece at a meeting of finance ministers from eurozone countries on Monday evening in Brussels.

There had been expectations of a breakthrough by May allowing the Greek authorities to unlock EUR 7.2 billion in funds from its bailout program. But Athens must agree to reforms to the country's economy that are far-reaching enough to satisfy Greece's international creditors to access that money.

"Negotiators for Greece and its creditors are converging on substance, but they won't reach a deal in time for the 11 May Eurogroup meeting," Mujtaba Rahman, who heads the Europe practice for the Eurasia Group political-risk consultancy, wrote in a briefing on Thursday, referring to the grouping of the eurozone's finance ministers. …

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