by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and visiting French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Friday expressed confidence over the imminent closure of the Greek bailout review by the next Eurogroup meeting on March 20 and the prospects of Greek economy.
In his first visit to Athens after assuming office in December, the French leader discussed with Tsipras and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos bilateral cooperation, developments on the management of the Greek debt crisis, the refugee crisis and the future of the EU.
In statements broadcast by Greek national broadcaster ERT during the meetings, Cazeneuve repeatedly voiced France's support to Greece.
"We are confident in the ability of Greek economy to recover. The results after all, confirm this. They are stunning, spectacular," he said at the start of talks with his Greek counterpart.
"France's support to the great challenges Greece faced lately, to stay in the eurozone and reach a fair deal with our lenders, as well as its solidarity regarding the refugee crisis, have been invaluable," Tsipras replied.
"France will always be at Greece's side as it is currently assisting in the completion of the second review (of the third Greek bailout)," Cazeneuve stressed during joint statements after the meeting, expressing optimism that there was will from all sides for positive results in the near future.
"I am extremely confident that we are closer than ever to concluding, not just a review, but a comprehensive agreement that will simultaneously mark the end of a long crisis for Greece and Europe," Tsipras said on his part.
According to the Greek leader the comprehensive agreement should include debt relief measures for the post-bailout period after the end of the current program in 2018.
Negotiations over the terms to close the second review have dragged on for several months. Under the initial timetable agreed in the summer of 2015 when Greece and its creditors signed the latest three-year aid program, the second assessment should have been completed in February 2016.
Welcoming the French premier to the Presidential mansion, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos underlined France's historically significant role in the building of the European Union and reaching decisions to benefit all European nations.
He expressed certainty that in the upcoming presidential elections in France, the French people will "honor their history" which strongly links them to the vision of a strong, united Europe.
"Without France the European Union and the eurozone would lose its identity. Without the EU and the eurozone France would lose its orientation," Pavlopoulos stressed, according to an e-mailed statement.