ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece on Tuesday denied a German newspaper report it could opt out of receiving bailout loans needed to make a July debt repayment if its lenders fail to offer clear debt relief terms to the crisis-hit country despite it having passed more reforms.
Tuesday’s report in Germany’s mass-selling Bild that Athens could opt to go without 7 billion euros of new loans if it does not get comprehensive debt relief, and was putting billions of euros aside preparing for this scenario, rattled the euro in early trade.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos dismissed the report, saying a deal on debt relief could be reached at the next scheduled meeting of euro zone finance ministers in less than three weeks.
“It is not true,” Tzanakopoulos told Reuters. “There will be a solution on June 15.”
Euro zone finance ministers failed to agree with the International Monetary Fund last week on debt relief terms for Greece and did not release new loans to Athens but recognised it had made significant progress with reforms.
The country has about 7 billion euros of debt maturing in July, a sum it will not be able to repay unless it gets a new tranche of creditors’ money out of its current bailout worth up to 86 billion euros, the third aid programme since the crisis began.
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said the report distorted what he said during a press briefing a day earlier and added it was not true that Greece was putting aside money on its own to make the debt repayment.
“Bild has distorted what I said yesterday,” he told Reuters when asked to comment on the report.
“What I did say is that the disbursement (of bailout money) was not an issue, because all sides agreed that we have kept to our commitments,” he said. “But the Greek government feels that a disbursement without clarity on debt is not enough to turn the Greek economy around.”
Greece hopes that euro zone finance ministers will offer enough clarity on the debt relief measures that could be carried out after its bailout ends in 2018, to convince investors that its debt - now at 197 percent of GDP - will be sustainable and help it return to bond markets as early as this summer.
The move could also convince the IMF to participate financially in its current bailout programme, as sought by Germany which is gearing up for elections in September. The Greek parliament approved extra austerity measures that will be implemented after 2018 as demanded by the IMF.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Tsakalotos said Greece had “done its part of what it promised” and called on its creditors and the IMF to reach a deal on debt relief saying it was in everyone’s benefit.
”If they don’t reach a solution it will be very difficult to defend it to the international community. What will they say? That the Greek government did all that we asked for and more but we are still going to send it to the rocks?
“We are looking for a good solution, we are not looking for the perfect solution. I am confident we can get a good solution,” he said.
Reporting By Renee Maltezou; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Hugh Lawson