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Eurogroup president Dijsselbloem 'hopeful' of Greece debt deal on May 24

Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Friday that he believed Greece and its creditors could ink a debt relief deal for the cash-strapped country at a May 24 meeting.

Euro zone finance ministers are due to meet Tuesday to discuss Athen's progress on a strict austerity program that was agreed under its current 86 billion-euro ($96 billion) bailout package, as well as the possibility of granting it debt relief so the country can cope with its repayments, Reuters reported.

It's widely estimated that Athens needs more help to cover 3.5 billion euros ($3.96 billion) in debt payments coming due in July as its economy buckles under the additional weight of the region's migrant crisis.

"We've made progress in recent weeks addressing debt issues so I think we can get that deal," Dijsselbloem, who is also the Netherlands' finance minister, told CNBC on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Sendai, Japan.

According to recent reports, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has requested that creditors grant Athens a temporary period of debt relief. Specifically, the IMF wants interest payments to euro zone creditors fixed at the current rate of 1.5 percent until 2040, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and The New York Times said this week.

The fund won't consider approving a new bailout program unless it contained debt relief measures, IMF spokesperson Gary Rice told media on Thursday.

Greeks demonstrate in Athens coping the Nuis Debout movement in France, calling for general disobedience against austerity in Greece.
George Panagakis | Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images
Greeks demonstrate in Athens coping the Nuis Debout movement in France, calling for general disobedience against austerity in Greece.

But many euro zone members are reportedly concerned that a generous haircut on debt would reduce Greece's incentive to implement austerity reforms.

Without naming names, Dijsselbloem said that those people advocating major debt relief up-front have moderated their stance and those who have said no relief was needed have also shifted their position "a little bit," helping to close the gap in talks.

"This year or the next, we can reduce the cost of the main loan package for the Greeks," he said. "For the longer term, we have a number of options that we can consider in terms of debt maturity, grace periods and interest rates. My preference would be to have clear choices in measures that we are prepared to take and then see when they are needed."

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reportedly told Dijsselbloem that Europe must be "flexible" regarding debt negotiations, the WSJ reported on Friday.

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