Friday, February 22, 2008

Athens issues invitation to Skopje

Greece on Tuesday issued an invitation to its northern neighbour, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), to put recent history behind them by finding a mutually acceptable solution to the nagging "name issue" and proceed as allies into the future.

Speaking to local and international reporters after an UN-brokered meeting of each country's representatives at the Greek foreign ministry in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said: "As you know, since the 1990s, we have engaged in a negotiation, under the auspices of the United Nations, with the explicit goal: reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue."

" The time has come to solve this issue once and for all. Today the negotiation process is at a crossroads. Both Athens and Skopje have a choice to make: a choice between the past and the future," the Greek foreign minister said, adding:

"I requested Amb. (Nikola) Dimitrov to convey a message to your government and your people: A message of optimism. A message of hope. The people of Greece are an honorable people who have known suffering and been acquainted with grief and yet have managed to persevere and forge their way to prosperity. Greece is a stable and mature democracy, an old member of NATO and the European Union. We have a strong and dynamic economy. And we look at the future with optimism and self-confidence.

"And in this future we want to walk hand-in-hand with you - our neighbours. We see on our borders a proud and dignified people; a strong community with a vibrant economy and an energetic society. We see on our borders a state with much to offer to our neighbourhood. We want to see in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia a good friend, a potentially strong ally and a future solid partner," Bakoyannis said.

"Let us leave the past behind us. Let us reach a solution. Let us make our way inside the Euro-Atlantic and European families together."

Addressing Greek reporters, the foreign minister said the government has been promoting the Greek positions on the FYROM issue on an interntional level, adding that she had reiterated the country's position to UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.

"You know the Mr. Nimetz has tabled a more elaborate proposal which we are studying."

"I requested a meeting with the President of the Republic and party leaders to brief them on current developments. We are facing a difficult negotiation to which Greece comes with clear positions."

Prior to the one-hour talks, Bakoyannis made a brief introductory address before Nimetz and the two countries' representatives, noting that Greece, as the most senior NATO and EU member in the region, desires stability, rapprochement, cooperation and good-neighborly relations.

She also cited what she called Athens' productive stance towards its northern neighbor over the years, and in particular Greek investments and robust trade with the one-time Yugoslav republic.

Finally, Bakoyannis reiterated that "now is the time" for finding a mutually acceptable solution, one that is clear-cut, practical, viable and constant.

In turning to Amb. Dimitrov, she reiterated that Greece intends to back and assist FYROM in its Euro-Atlantic prospects, under the condition that FYROM leadership contributes to the finding of a mutually acceptable solution.

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