Monday, January 22, 2007

Nimetz: Commercial reasons behind airport renaming

Matthew Nimetz, the UN's special representative in negotiations on the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia, visited Skopje on Saturday (January 13th). He met President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and the Macedonian negotiator for the name issue, Nikola Dimitrov.

"There are no new proposals on the name. I didn't receive any new proposal. We had a diplomatic dialogue and will continue to discuss the issue," Nimetz said.

The envoy, who was in Athens the day before for talks with Greek officials, conveyed their displeasure over the renaming of Skopje's airport in honour of Alexander the Great.

"I heard the Macedonian case for the decision," he said. "The fact is that the issue of the symbols has always been a sensitive issue for both countries. This is also an issue between two neighbours that must be approached with great sensitivity."

"I was informed that this is a commercial decision -- that the renaming had more of a commercial goal," Nimetz added.

Dimitrov confirmed no name proposals were being floated. He said Nimetz's visit was primarily an opportunity to meet the new Macedonian government.

"We reasserted the government position calling for a double formula and heard Greek criticism about the renaming of the airport. We faced their arguments with ours. It is important that the process of talks is continuing," Dimitrov said.

Nimetz visited Macedonia a year and a half ago, presenting his last proposal for resolution of the name dispute. Under that proposal, the so-called double formula, the Republic of Macedonia could use its constitutional name in bilateral relations with various states. The name Republika Makedonija, in Latin script, would be used internationally.

The Macedonian side accepted the proposal, but Greece rejected it.

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