ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's prime minister told his new cabinet on Sunday that Athens "can and will" conclude its second bailout review in time for long-awaited debt relief talks to begin in December.
Alexis Tsipras reshuffled his government on Friday and urged his ministers to work hard to rapidly complete the review, which includes labor reforms and fiscal issues Athens has agreed to implement under its bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Restructuring Greece's debt, the highest in the euro zone, is the leftist-led government's primary goal as it hopes to convince voters years of austerity are bearing fruit and shore up its waning popularity in opinion polls.
"The negotiation can and will be concluded on time, for us to have positive decisions at the Eurogroup on Dec. 5," Tsipras said. "In other words, to begin talks for specific short-term, mid-term and long-term measures for Greek debt relief."
If that happens, Tsipras said, Greece can eye its inclusion in the European Central Bank's quantitative easing - an asset- buying program from which it is excluded - within the first quarter of 2017. It can then regain access to the bond market by the time its current bailout expires in 2018.
Tsipras, who was first elected in January 2015 promising to end austerity, has seen his popularity slide as he pushes ahead with painful cuts under the country's latest bailout agreed in August 2015.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Larry King)