ECB needs 'more clarity' on debt relief to buy Greek bonds: source

FILE PHOTO: Flags in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) before a news conference at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The European Central Bank needs more clarity on what kind of debt relief Greece will get from its international creditors if it is to buy Greek government bonds as part of its monetary stimulus program, a source close to the matter said.

Euro zone governments threw Greece another 11th-hour credit lifeline on Thursday, but they left any measure to alleviate Athens’s debt repayments for future discussions.

This was unlikely to convince the ECB, which has repeatedly said it needs to see specific commitments on helping Greece with its mountain of debt and making it sustainable before it will include the country in its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.6 trillion) bond-buying program.

“It’s a very positive step in the right direction, but you need to see more clarity on debt to include Greece in the PSPP (Public Sector Purchase Programme),” the source said.

Greek government debt was excluded from the ECB’s purchases when the program started in early 2015, due to its low credit rating and uncertainty over the Syriza government’s compliance with the conditions of its international bailout program.

On Thursday, euro zone finance ministers said they would be ready to consider extending the maturities and grace periods of their loans to Greece by a range of zero to 15 years. The average maturity now is 30 years.

This was enough to win over the International Monetary Fund, which offered some help but would not disburse any of its money yet, awaiting extra details on possible debt relief.

Reporting By Francesco Canepa; Editing by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Hugh Lawson