EU and International Monetary Fund negotiators said that they will continue talks next week with Greece in a bid to broker a deal on reforms that Athens must undertake to unlock the next stages of its international bailout programme.

An IMF spokesman said that “important progress” has been made since technical teams of officials returned to Athens last month.

“Discussions will continue next week, notably on pension and labor market reforms,” he said.

The policy talks are a key part of efforts by euro area finance ministers to broker a deal that would bring the IMF fully into the €86bn Greek bailout, and avert a crisis in July when Greece faces a €7bn debt repayment.

Several parliaments across the currency bloc, notably in Germany and the Netherlands, see IMF involvement as essential to the programme’s credibility, and ministers have warned that it will be politically difficult to release further tranches of bailout aid without the fund on board.

The European Stability Mechanism, the euro area’s bailout fund, said that it will seek to “rapidly conclude a staff level agreement,” on the policy measures, which are known to include pension cuts and a lowering of the salary-limit at which people start to pay income tax.

Progress has been made in the discussions “on a balanced fiscal package and a number of key reforms, notably in the financial sector,” the IMF said.

Euro area finance ministers will review progress when they meet in Brussels on March 20.

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