Brussels Group due to meet in wake of Obama’s call for Greek reforms

Greece and its lenders are due to get back down to business on Saturday with a meeting of the Brussels Group that Athens hopes will result in an interim agreement by the end of the month at the latest.

Officials from Greece, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the European Stability Mechanism are due to meet on Saturday in Paris, according to sources, to resume negotiations over the reform package Athens must adopt to secure further bailout funding.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met with ECB President Mario Draghi in Washington Friday on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings. The two men spoke for an hour and, according to sources, took a detailed look at how discussions between Greece and its lenders should progress between now and the Eurogroup meeting on April 24.

“We spoke about the day-by-day process, as I did with Mrs [Christine] Lagarde,” said Varoufakis, who met with the IMF managing director earlier in the week.

Earlier, the Greek finance minister also had a brief discussion with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of an event at the White House in honor of Greek Independence Day. Sources said the informal encounter lasted for 12 minutes.

Obama also met on Friday with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and in a joint press conference after the talks urged Greece to carry out reforms.

“Greece needs to initiate reforms,” Obama said. “They have to collect taxes. They have to reduce their bureaucracy, [institute] more flexible labor practices,” he added.

“We will be supportive of some flexibilities in how you move forward so that you can make investments and it’s not just squeezing blood from a stone,” Obama said he told Tsipras after the prime minister took office in January.

The American president said Greek leaders have “tough decisions” to make.

Renzi also stressed the need for Greece and its partners to reach a deal. “We must absolutely strongly work to achieve an agreement,” Renzi said, adding that Greece had to implement reforms.

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