Monday target for Greece debt deal

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The European Union is aiming to clinch an interim debt deal with Greece at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday, with “low expectations” for a breakthrough at meetings of ministers and EU leaders this week.

Eurozone finance ministers, collectively known as the Eurogroup, meet today and next Monday and EU leaders at a summit, or European Council, this Thursday.

“These are the next steps but for the time being we have low expectations that any final agreement will be today or at the European Council,” a Commission spokeswoman said.

An EU official later said the target now was to clinch an interim deal by Monday’s scheduled meeting of the Eurogroup in Brussels.

“This would give time for any ratification required by national parliaments before the current EU bailout deal expires on February 28,” the official said, although cautioned against setting “any fake deadlines”.

Greece is seeking a new debt agreement with the eurozone that will allow it to shake off much of the austerity imposed since 2010 by international lenders. The existing package expires at the end of February.

“Very intense contacts are ongoing between the (Commission) President, (Greek) Prime Minister Tsipras and all other players involved in the eurozone... But up to this point all these contacts have not been very fruitful,” the Commission spokeswoman said.