Wednesday, January 17, 2007

UN mediator says airport spat hurting Greece-Macedonia talks

A UN mediator said on Friday that a recent decision to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) main airport after Alexander the Great negatively affects negotiations between Greece and its Balkan neighbour.

Greece, which contends that the small Balkan nation is trying to monopolize an historical connection to the revered conqueror, invited the UN mediator in charge of the issue, Matthew Nimetz, for talks in Athens.

'The recent decision to re-name the airport affects negotiations in a non-positive way,' Nimetz said following talks with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

'Greece's position is very clear and I will travel to Skopje for talks tomorrow,' he added.

Bakoyannis criticized the decision by Skopje, with whom the Greek government has shared a long-running dispute over historical references, and has not ruled out the possibility of vetoing FYROM's candidacy to join the European Union.

For the past 14 years, Athens has blocked its neighbour's international recognition under the name of Macedonia, arguing that it implies claims on a Greek province of the same name. Instead, it has agreed to the UN-given provisionary title of FYROM.

The government of FYROM decided to rename Skopje's Petrovec airport after Alexander the Great, and Ohrid's airport as Apostle Paul.

Greece and Macedonia have participated in UN-led talks aimed at resolving the dispute that began with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

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