ATHENS Greece aims to make a trial return to capital markets in the first half of 2017, which will pave the way for a full market return in 2018 when its program ends, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis said on Saturday.
In an article published in newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton, Dragasakis urged Greece's official lenders to make a positive assessment of the country's bailout progress at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday and send a "message of hope to the Greek people and Europe as a whole".
"The only possible option on Monday is to make and pave the way for decisions that will bring the achievement of our jointly agreed target closer," he said, referring to a market return.
To test markets as early as 2017, Greece needs to be included in the European Central Bank's asset-buying program, he said, and for this to happen its second bailout review must be wrapped up and debt relief measures, not only short-term but also beyond 2018, must be defined.
"It's not enough to make the numbers add up, the dates must also fit. This must be secured at Monday's Eurogroup meeting," Dragasakis said.
Referring to a rift between Greece's official creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, on the country's primary surplus targets after 2018, he said: "Greece has once again become a field where wider interests clash".
The IMF has yet to decide whether it will stay and co-fund the Greek program - a development which Germany wants to add credibility to the bailout, the country's third since 2010.
But the fund says Greece cannot maintain a bailout target for a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP beyond 2018 unless it adopts extra austerity measures, something which Greek officials have already rejected.
"The only source of uncertainty are the questions that arise from the IMF stance and some countries' obsession with its participation in the program," Dragasakis said.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; editing by Susan Thomas)