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Greek bailout talks make breakthrough

dpa logodpa 7/04/2017 Raf Casert

Greece and its creditors are moving closer to a breakthrough in talks to secure the country's next bailout payment, eurozone finance ministers say.

Greece and its international creditors have taken a big step toward an agreement that will ensure the cash-strapped country gets the money it needs in time to avoid a potential bankruptcy this summer.

For months, the bailout discussions have stalled amid disagreements over what reforms, including to pensions, tax and the labour market that Greece should take in order to get the money due from its most recent international rescue. Without the money, Greece would once again be facing the prospect of having to exit the eurozone - so-called Grexit.

"The big blocks have now been sorted out and that should allow us to speed up and go for the final stretch," Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters following a meeting of the eurozone's 19 finance ministers in the Maltese capital of Valletta.

Once a broad agreement is reached in coming weeks, Dijsselbloem said the eurozone will come back to issues related to Greece's stringent medium-term budget targets and the country's debts - key conditions of the Greek government.

EU Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said a deal on the latest steps to keep Greece afloat should be within reach by the time the eurozone ministers meet again on May 22 - easily in time for Greece's next big debt-repayment hump in July.

Another key development on Friday appears to be the ongoing involvement of the International Monetary Fund, which has been part of Greece's bailout programs since the first rescue back in 2010.

The broad outlines of Friday's agreement involve Athens making further economic reform commitments until 2020.

Without the loan, Greece would struggle to make a debt payment in July, raising anew the prospect of default. The last time, Greece faced potential bankruptcy was in July 2015, when the Tsipras government eventually agreed a three-year bailout that could amount to 86 billion euros ($A120 billion).

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