Eurozone ministers push for Greece bailout deal

Eurozone finance ministers will discuss the state of Greek negotiations regarding fresh bailout loans on Friday at an informal meeting in Malta

Demonstrators gather outside EC office in Athens to protest new austerity measures
Demonstrators gather outside EC office in Athens to protest new austerity measures

Eurozone finance ministers raced to reach a reform deal with Greece on Friday in an effort to release billions in bailout cash and avert further damage to a stalling Greek economy.

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem spent the week shuttling between Brussels and Berlin ahead of Friday's ministerial talks in hopes of finding compromise in a fight that has dragged on for months.

"We're not there yet," a Eurozone official close to the talks told AFP news agency before the ministers from the 19 countries met in Valletta, as Malta holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

The impasse has held up the latest instalment of Greece's 86-billion-euro bailout, agreed in 2015.

Talks between Greece, the European Union and International Monetary Fund have stuttered for months due to differences over Greece's fiscal progress, labour and energy market reforms, rekindling worries of a new crisis in Europe.

The deal is needed in order to stop the country from defaulting on its creditors this summer when Athens owes about 7 billion euros in debt repayments.

"The Greek economy is ready to leave the crisis behind it. But despite the impressive fiscal results, some of our creditors appear unrepentant," Tsipras told a news conference after meeting EU Council President Donald Tusk in Athens.

"This isn't child's play. This is the future of a people we are talking about."

Greece is on its third bailout from euro zone governments but to get money it has to pass regular reviews of reforms it agreed to in return for the financing.

"What we are trying to achieve is to get close enough to a deal so that lenders' teams of experts may go back to Athens and finalise the numbers," one official said.

Without a deal this week, Tsipras said he would ask for a Eurozone leaders summit later this month, making his case in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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