Spanish, Italian, Portuguese ministers optimistic on Greek deal

PARIS (Reuters) - Finance ministers of other southern euro zone countries on Wednesday talked up the chances of reaching a cash-for-reforms deal with Greece, with Spain’s Luis de Guindos saying he was certain it would happen.

Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos arrives to attend an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet senior European officials later in the day in Brussels, where he is expected to hear the terms of a plan drawn up this week by top policymakers including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I am totally sure that we will reach an agreement with Greece. I am totally sure. The euro zone is a club where you can check in but you cannot check out,” Economy Minister de Guindos told a conference at the OECD think tank in Paris.

“My impression is that we will be able to reach an agreement that will be beneficial to Greece and the rest of the euro zone,” he said. “It is very clear that a Grexit is not on the table.”

Portuguese Finance Minister Maria Luis Albuquerque suggested negotiations could be concluded “today, tomorrow, very shortly,”

saying Greece’s creditors were making a huge push to reach an accord but that further compromises might be necessary.

Portugal, like Spain, has been among the euro zone countries that have been most insistent on Greece committing to deep reforms, like other recipients of bailouts in the region have done.

Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan also said he was confident a deal would be reached. But he added: “Time is running out, so it has to come soon.”

One of Greece’s top negotiators, Euclid Tsakalatos, told Reuters that “there are areas of differences” between Greece and its lenders but also “common interest in finding a solution”.

Asked when a deal could be reached, he said before heading to Brussels: “We’re meeting (European Commission) president (Jean-Claude) Juncker, we shall see what’s on the table.”

Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, struck a more cautious note, saying that Greece remained a “potential accident”.

“It would be a mistake to think it would be just contained to Greece,” he said, noting that policymakers had been wrongfooted in recent years by contagion from the sub-prime debt crisis.

Also cautious, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Reuters that an exit of Greece from the euro zone could still not be ruled out and that bridging the gap between Athens and its creditors remained difficult.

“You can never say it (“Grexit”) is not an option, but it is not the aim. The aim is to come to a common understanding,” he said on the sidelines of the OECD conference.

“I do believe they are working very hard to get somewhere.”

Reporting by Ingrid Melander, Mark John and Axel Threlfall; editing by John Stonestreet