S State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday that in order for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) NATO aspirations to proceed, the country should resolve its difference with Greece concerning the "name issue".
The statement ranked as amongst the clearest signals by Washington on the issue to date, according to local reports.
"Well, you asked a question about membership in NATO. That's how this whole question came about. 'Macedonia' is part of the Membership Action Plan, MAP, so there is some interaction ongoing between NATO as an organization, its individual member states and 'Macedonia'. We ourselves have made a decision with respect to the name of 'Macedonia'. Now, eventually, as we have said that NATO has an open door and we clearly have -- are engaged in discussions with other nonmember states right now about the potential for membership down the road, one of those issues between 'Macedonia' and Greece would have to be the name issue. And in -- if you were ever to get to membership for 'Macedonia' in NATO, you would have to get all member NATO states agreeing that 'Macedonia' should enter," he said, adding:
"So it was a reference to the fact that if you ever do get to that point, it's an issue that would need to be resolved between 'Macedonia' and Greece, since NATO is a consensus organization," McCormack said, responding to a relevant question
"As an organization and as a member state, we have -- this issue is not an issue for us, but clearly it is for the Greek government. It would need to be resolved if 'Macedonia' were ever to proceed further down the pathway to NATO membership," the spokesman added.
Although Athens and Skopje have achieved remarkable progress in bilateral relations, especially in trade and investments, since signing an UN-mediated "interim agreement" in 1995, the "name issue" remains the only 'thorn' blocking full normalisation.
Greece and ethnic Greek communities around the world strenuously oppose FYROM's use of the name "Macedonia", as in "Republic of Macedonia", citing historical and political reasons. Moreover, Greece's largest province, which shares borders with southern FYROM, is called Macedonia, the same geographical and historical region that more-or-less corresponds with the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander the Great.