Greece, creditors to begin bailout talks next week: govt source
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoGreece and its international creditors will begin talks on a new international bailout worth up to 86 billion euros ($94 billion) for the crisis-hit country next week, a Greek government source said July 25.
Technical teams from the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund would begin arriving over the weekend, but talks to finalise the bailout deal would only begin on July 28, the source said.
The heads of missions would arrive a day or two later in Athens, the source said, adding that they should be on site by July 30.
A European Commission spokesperson, however, could not confirm the plans, saying only that the representatives would fly out to Athens "in the coming days".
The two sides are under enormous pressure to hammer out the rescue deal before August 20, when Athens is scheduled to make a loan repayment of 3.2 billion euros to the ECB that it cannot currently afford.
The European Commission's Declan Costello, Rasmus Ruffer of the ECB, Delia Velculescu of the IMF and Nicola Giammarioli from the European Stability Mechanism will attend as mission chiefs for the organisations, according to the source.
A few hours earlier, the source had said the heads of missions would be in Athens this weekend.
"The delay... is due to technical reasons and not due to political or diplomatic reasons," added the source.
Other negotiators were due to arrive "by the end of Sunday night", the source said, adding that an official from the ESM, the eurozone's bailout fund, would also be heading to Athens.
Greece's radical-left government struck a deal on July 13 with the creditors to introduce tough economic reforms in exchange for the bailout, which it hopes will prevent it from defaulting on its enormous debt and crashing out of the eurozone.
But there appears to have been a delay in getting the ball rolling on talks to finalise the package.
Negotiators from the creditors -- who have bailed Greece out twice already since 2010 -- have not set foot in Athens for more than a year as hostility has grown between the two sides.
Greece had initially said the creditors would fly to Athens on Friday, but sources close to the negotiations spoke of "logistical problems" holding up the arrival, including the question of where the officials would be based.
"The mission is being prepared. We are still discussing a location as we have to find an accessible place to work, near the ministries," a source close to the talks said on Friday.
The negotiating calendar is even tighter than the August 20 payment deadline as the final deal must be approved by lawmakers in Greece and a number of eurozone countries, a process which could easily take up well over a week.