Tuesday, June 12, 2007

FYROM tops list in US, Greece talks

A decision on whether to allow the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to join NATO has not been taken yet, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns insisted ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis yesterday.

Burns is due to hold talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis today. Greece’s name dispute with FYROM is likely to dominate the agenda, which will also include discussions on Kosovo, Cyprus, Turkey and terrorism.

Greek diplomatic sources said Bakoyannis made it clear to Burns yesterday that Athens believes FYROM, as well as Albania, have not yet fulfilled the criteria for membership in the strategic alliance.

Burns did not make a statement after the meeting but said before he left Washington that a decision on FYROM’s bid will be made next April or May.

“I am going to Greece to hear the government’s opinion,” said Burns. “I will listen carefully.”

Washington has backed Croatia’s bid to join NATO but has yet to provide an official view on the candidacies of FYROM and Albania.

A poll by GPO yesterday suggested that 82.3 percent of Greeks think the government should or “probably” should veto FYROM’s membership of NATO.

Seven in 10 respondents object to the use of “Macedonia” in any name that the neighboring country uses, according to the poll that was published in the Proto Thema newspaper.

Nine in 10 of those questioned also thought that President Karolos Papoulias should convene a meeting of party leaders so that a consensus between the parties is achieved as to the policy that Greece follows with regard to the name issue.

In an interview in Sunday’s Kathimerini, outgoing US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries stressed that Washington understands Greece’s position on FYROM.

“It is an issue that has existed since 1991,” he said. “We understand and have had many discussions with Greece about it. We understand Greek sensitivities.”

Meanwhile, Ries said that he was also hopeful that the members of Revolutionary Struggle – the group that claimed a missile attack on the US Embassy in January – would soon be caught.

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