Monday, January 08, 2007

FM invites UN envoy for FYROM talks

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has invited the United Nations’ special mediator Matthew Nimetz to visit Athens on January 12 for talks aimed at resurrecting negotiations to resolve a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the latter’s official name.

Bakoyannis issued the invitation in the wake of a national outcry caused by FYROM’s decision at the end of last month to rename its airport in Skopje after the ancient Greek warrior Alexander the Great. “It was a counterproductive act which goes against the logic of an interim agreement and does nothing to contribute to improving bilateral relations,” a top-ranking Foreign Ministry source told Kathimerini.

According to the ministry, the talks with Nimetz would be aimed at reviving a UN-mediated attempt to resolve a longstanding quarrel between Greece and FYROM regarding the latter’s official name – a dispute which has strained ties since the former Yugoslav republic declared its independence in 1991.

The most recent effort to solve the dispute was abandoned last year after the former FYROM government rejected Nimetz’s proposal of Republika Makedonija-Skopje as an official name.

Bakoyannis intends to use the above name “as a basis for discussions,” the ministry said.

Greece has strenuously opposed FYROM’s attempts to change its name to the Republic of Macedonia as there is a northern Greek province named Macedonia and so the move could provoke territorial confusion.

Meanwhile, in a further strain to ties between Athens and Skopje, a Greek crossing post at the border with FYROM continues to charge motorists 3.15 euros to enter the country, an illegal practice that has been going on for five years. Prefectural authorities in Kilkis, who have been warned by Greece’s central government to stop the practice, are believed to have netted 2.8 million euros.

FYROM authorities had threatened to appeal to the European Court if the charges continued beyond 2006 but there had been no official comment from Skopje on this issue by late yesterday.

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