Greece 'close to signing interim debt deal'

Sources say temporary agreement will include considerably lower debt repayments over next four years.

    A deal is close to being finalised to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt, sources have told Al Jazeera.

    Alexis Tsipras, Greek prime minister, is to meet Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission chief, on Thursday after he agreed with the leaders of France and Germany to intensify efforts for a bailout deal aimed at preventing Greece from going bankrupt.

    Al Jazeera's John Psaropoulos, reporting from Athens, said Greek officials were more optimistic on Thursday after Wednesday's late-night talks in Brussels had ended without a breakthrough.

    Analysis: How much does Greece owe?

    "Greek officials seem to believe that there could be a temporary or interim deal in the offing that would be announced as early as [Thursday] - certainly in the next 48 hours," he said.

    He said the possible deal would cover the disagreement between Greece and its creditors, including the size of the country's shortfall this year.

    "Then there is something that will please the Greeks more. There would be, in theory in this interim agreement, a short-term four-year deal on how much money the Greeks will spend servicing their debt which will be far, far less than what is currently foreseen in the austerity deal," he said.

    "In other words, this year Greece might spend one percent of GDP repaying debt, rising to two percent and then three percent the year after."

    Greek officials have previously said they were close to reaching a deal, but no deals have materialised.

    Further meetings

    Tsipras' meeting with Juncker on Thursday will come a day after the pair met briefly on the sidelines of an EU-Latin America summit.

    He also held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to come up with a reform plan after five months of stalemate.

    "We decided to intensify efforts to resolve the differences that remain and to move towards a solution," Tsipras said after the meeting with Merkel and Hollande broke up without a deal.

    "The European leaders realised that we must offer a viable solution and the chance for Greece to return to growth."

    COUNTING THE COST: Greek's debt crisis - payback time

    Merkel and Hollande left without commenting, but a German government statement stuck to the same line, saying the leaders had agreed the talks "must be intensified".

    Greece's creditors have refused to release the last $8.1bn remaining in its EU-IMF bailout, which is due to expire on June 30, unless Greece agrees to tougher reforms.

    Without the cash, Greece will be unable to pay its foreign debts, having already had to tap up local municipalities to meet earlier commitments, and a default could send it crashing out of the euro.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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