Friday, April 04, 2008

US to Boost Assistance to Macedonia

A top US diplomat who attended Thursday’s Macedonia-US meeting in Bucharest has confirmed that the United States is ready to give additional assistance to Macedonia following the country's failure to secure an invitation to join NATO.

At NATO's Bucharest summit on Thursday, Macedonia's entry into the Alliance was blocked by Greece because of its continuing dispute with Macedonia over the country's name.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told BBC Macedonia on Friday that the US cannot guarantee the security of Macedonia but added that ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation are being considered.

Local media speculated that this may imply strengthening military cooperation.

Athens has insisted that Skopje change the name “Republic of Macedonia” if it wants to avoid a Greek veto on NATO membership. Greece argues that this name could be taken to imply a territorial claim over Greece's northern province also called Macedonia.

Analysts have argued that if Macedonia stays out of NATO its stability could be jeopardised, since the country’s 25-percent Albanian community could begin lobbying for secession due to the country's unfulfilled NATO aspirations.

On Thursday evening, Menduh Taci, the leader of the ruling Albanian party in Macedonia, the Democratic Party of Albanians, told local media that the Albanians would wait “as long as they can” for the Macedonian majority to try to solve the “name” dispute. He did not give any deadlines.

Macedonian media reported earlier on Thursday that the signing of a special bilateral agreement in which the US would guarantee the stability of Macedonia was agreed at a meeting between US President George W. Bush and Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The meeting took place after it had become clear that despite the approval of the other 25 NATO members Macedonia would remain outside the Alliance because of Greek opposition.

An intense UN and US effort to find a mutually acceptable solution to the 17-year long dispute has so far been in vain.

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