Saturday, February 10, 2007

U.S. talking with Macedonia over NATO application despite Greek objections over name

It is only Greece that has a problem with calling Macedonia Macedonia, and the two southern Balkan neighbors need to work it out to get on with international business, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.

As for the United States, Sean McCormack said, it is willing to discuss NATO membership with Macedonia under that name and would like a resolution of the name dispute with Greece.

Greece is a member of both NATO and the European Union, to which Macedonia applied for membership in 2004. Greece has threatened to stand in the way of Macedonian membership under that name in both international organizations.

McCormack said the United States has no say in the EU situation, but "in the case of NATO, then we will talk to Macedonia about their aspirations.

"We have made it very clear that NATO should have a door open to consideration in expanding its membership, and we're going to continue to talk to Macedonia about what their aspirations are."

Athens refers to Macedonia by the acronym FYROM, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the name under which the country entered the United Nations in 1993. The Greek position is that the name Macedonia implies a claim by FYROM on the northern Greece province of Macedonia and could destabilize the region.

"I understand, in the case of Greece, that they need to come to some accommodation on this — for those two parties — difficult issue," McCormack said. "It's an emotional issue. But they should try to work through the issue.

"They, after all, live next door to one another. Neither of them are going to be able to move. So they should work to resolve the issue."

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