BRUSSELS Euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund clinched agreement on reducing Greece's debt in a breakthrough to release urgently needed loans to keep the near-bankrupt economy afloat.
After 12 hours of talks at their third meeting in as many weeks, Greece's international lenders agreed on a package of measures to reduce Greek debt by 40 billion euros (32.4 billion pounds), cutting it to 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020.
Following are comments after their talks:
FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER PIERRE MOSCOVICI
"We made progress with solutions that are realistic. Everyone has gone beyond their red lines, driven by a common interest to find credible solutions for the integrity of the euro zone."
GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE
ON PAYMENT OF AID TRANCHE TO GREECE:
"We will make the final decision about the payment of the tranche after the conclusion or result of a possible debt buyback programme."
ON POSSIBLE FURTHER MEASURES TO CUT GREEK DEBT:
"When Greece has achieved, or is set to achieve, a primary surplus and fulfilled all of its conditions, we will, if need be, consider further measures for the reduction of the total debt."
EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
ON GOAL AND POSSIBILITY OF FURTHER MEASURES:
"Our common goal is that Greece achieves a credible and sustainable reduction of Greek debt-to-GDP ratio, reaching a level substantially lower than 110 percent of GDP in 2022.
"We will consider further measures and assistance if necessary to achieve this goal once Greece reaches an annual primary surplus.
"With these decisions, member states can now launch their national parliamentary procedures, which should be finalised in time for the Eurogroup to finally decide on the disbursement on the December 13.
"I can assure you that the IMF is fully on board with the far-reaching decisions taken today."
ON AGREEMENT FOR GREECE:
"I'm pleased to announce that today we reached a political agreement on the next disbursement to Greece.
"Let me first say that this is not just about money, this is the promise of a better future for the Greek people and for the euro area as a whole, a break from the era of missed targets and loose implementation towards a new paradigm of steadfast reform momentum, declining debt ratios and a return to growth.
"I admit, however, that this has been a very difficult deal.
"It required very significant efforts by each and every stakeholder. First and foremost Greece, whose government has implemented a wide-ranging set of reforms and demonstrated its firm commitment to the adjustment programme and more generally to fiscal consolidation and growth-enhancing reforms."
ON DISBURSEMENTS AND CONDITIONS:
"This includes a set of stronger budgeting and monitoring rules, this includes the establishment of a strengthened and fully transparent segregated account for debt servicing and this does include the disbursements from the EFSF (temporary bailout fund) in the first quarter of 2013, which will be made in three tranches linked to the implementation of conditionality milestones to be agreed by the troika.
"We also consider that as part of the recapitalisation of Greek banks, remaining subordinating debt totals of these banks should participate in this process in order to achieve a fair burden-sharing. We were informed that Greece is also considering certain debt-reduction measures in the near future which may involve public debt tender purchases of one or more of the various categories of sovereign obligations."
ON IMPROVING SUSTAINABILITY OF GREEK DEBT:
"On the part of the other euro member states, crucial decisions were made to enhance Greece's debt sustainability and its overall debt profile in the spirit of European solidarity and common faith in Greece's future in the euro area.
"Let me just mention a few:
* The lowering of the interest margin on the bilateral loans granted in 2010/2011 to the low level by a further 100 basis points
* an extension of the maturities of all loans provided to Greece by 15 years, and
* a deferral of the interest payments by Greece on EFSF loans by 10 years
"These measures will lower the refinancing hump after the programme period and improve the prospects for regaining market access."
"A transfer by member states to Greece of amounts equivalent to the income stemming from the SMP portfolio accruing to their national central banks."
"The Eurogroup wants to stress, however, that the above mentioned benefits and initiatives will accrue to Greece in a phased manner and conditional upon a strong implementation by the country of the agreed reform measures in the programme period as well as the post-programme surveillance period.
"Jointly, all the initiatives decided on today will bring Greece's public debt clearly back on a sustainable path throughout this and the next decade and will facilitate a gradual return to market financing.
EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK PRESIDENT MARIO DRAGHI
"I very much welcome the decisions taken by the ministers of finance. They will certainly reduce the uncertainty and strengthen confidence in Europe and in Greece."
(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Luke Baker; compiled by Rex Merrifield)