Thursday, January 18, 2007

U.N. envoy visits Macedonia for talks on name dispute

A U.N. mediator met with the Macedonian leadership Saturday following the latest disagreement in a long-running name dispute with neighboring Greece.

Matthew Nimitz said he had "no new proposal" to make for the name dispute after talks with Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki

Macedonia gained peaceful independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, but Greece argues that the country's name implies a territorial claim against the Greek region of the same name. Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under its provisional name "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

The dispute, which remains unresolved, flared again this month over a decision to rename Petrovec airport in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, "Alexander the Great Airport," after the ancient Greek warrior king.

Greek officials have accused Macedonia of using names and symbols of ancient Greek heritage

"We discussed the airport name issue, which is of concern to Greece," Nimitz said, adding that Macedonia's position is "very different" from the view held in Athens

"It is not a major event here, but a commercial decision," Nimitz said. But, he warned, this issue "has to be dealt with with great sensitivity."

"The symbol issue and the historical aspects have always been a part of the relationship between the two countries that, unfortunately, has led to political differences, " he said.

Nimitz met with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis late Friday

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