* Savers put money into banks as calm returns
* 12 billion euros left Greek banks in January
* Pick-up averts immediate need for emergency funding (Adds detail on funding, background)
By Lefteris Papadimas
ATHENS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - More than 850 million euros in deposits returned to Greek banks when they reopened this week after Athens secured an extension to its financial rescue, a senior Greek banker told Reuters on Thursday.
The return of deposits gives Greek banks a chance to catch their breath after savers rushed to take out billions of euros in recent weeks, forcing them to increasingly rely on emergency funding.
It may also mean the European Central Bank does not have to rush to provide more access to liquidity.
In January, as the new Greek government challenged their international backers on the terms of aid, savers took 12 billion euros ($13.5 billion) out of their accounts, reducing deposits to their lowest level in years.
“About 700 million euros returned on Tuesday and more than 150 million on Wednesday,” said the banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The improvement in confidence came days after euro zone countries approved the extension to Greece’s loan agreement in return for a package of reform pledges by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government.
It means that there is no immediate need for the European Central Bank to grant a further increase in so-called Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) beyond the roughly 68 billion euros Greece is allowed now, said people familiar with the matter.
Central bank chiefs from the euro zone, gathering in Cyprus next week, are set to discuss whether or not to make it easier for Greek banks to access direct ECB finance, instead of using emergency funds.
ECB President Mario Draghi told the European Parliament on Wednesday that the central bank would be willing to again accept Greek bonds for funding if Athens keeps to reform pledges.
It appeared from his remarks, however, that no such move to accept the bonds as security for ECB funding would be immediate.
$1 = 0.8916 euros Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by John O'Donnell Editing by Jeremy Gaunt