Eurozone finance ministers paved the way Monday for Greece to receive 1.1 billion euros (1.2 billion dollars) in bailout aid, while holding back on a further 1.7 billion euros earmarked for arrears payments.
Athens is on an 86-billion-euro financial lifeline from the European Union, under its third international rescue package negotiated in the space of five years.
Earlier this year, Greece's creditors agreed in principle to pay out 10.3 billion euros in aid but split that up into smaller parcels, coupled to reform milestones that Athens must meet.
Ahead of Monday's talks in Luxembourg, EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici voiced expectations that the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers would approve the remaining 2.8 billion euros, noting that the country had met all necessary conditions.
But while the ministers welcomed "the implementation by the Greek authorities of the set of 15 milestones," they noted that Athens must still submit data relating to arrears clearance carried out in September.
"This always takes a number of weeks," said Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem. "That cannot be helped; it cannot be done faster."
The final approval for both disbursements must be given by the eurozone bailout fund, which next meets on October 24.
"There's no big payment to our creditors before that," said Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, voicing his satisfaction with the decisions taken Monday.
Greece's next debt repayment is not until December, when a 300-million-euro payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is due.
Ahead of the talks, ministers had praised Athens' reform progress.
"Greece is making great efforts," said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin. "I think you have to recognize those efforts," he added.
"I am sure there will be progress in one area, lack of progress in others," noted Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, adding that the ministers would consider the "full picture."
But finance ministry experts, meeting ahead of the Eurogroup talks, failed to agree on whether Greece had completed its homework, raising the possibility of delaying the disbursement decision, sources close to the negotiations said on condition of anonymity.
The 15 milestones cover reforms in the pension system and energy sector, as well as moves to strengthen bank governance, set up the new independent revenue agency and make progress on privatizations, among other things.
Looming over the bailout negotiations is a debate over the long-term sustainability of Greece's debt, which the IMF has set as a condition to participate in the country's third bailout.
Officials hope that the Washington-based fund will reach a decision on its involvement by the end of the year.
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