Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NATO Slams 'Immature' Macedonia Appeal

NATO says a letter sent by Macedonia urging alliance members not to block the country's NATO membership because of the ‘name’ dispute is 'immature.'

An official from NATO headquarters told Balkan Insight that the alliance’s stance is the same as last week.

“We have clearly stated that Macedonia and Greece have to resolve the name issue and as we concluded at the Bucharest summit, as soon as Skopje and Athens resolve this dispute, Macedonia’s can count on a NATO invitation,” this official said.

“So far, it is up to Skopje now to start immediately negotiations on name dispute”, he added.

Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki sent the letters to his counterparts in 25 NATO countries, except Greece, on Wednesday, the Associated press agency reported.

“I am confident that you and your country will not allow an imposed bilateral issue to become an additional criteria and a precondition for Macedonia’s membership of NATO” Milososki wrote.

He said Macedonians had been hugely disappointed by the outcome of NATO’s Bucharest summit.

Last week NATO agreed to issue a membership invitation to Croatia and Albania but Macedonia’s bid stumble because of a Greek veto since the ‘name’ row between the two countries remains unresolved.

NATO officials say the fact Macedonia's appeal ignored Athens was 'immature.'
“It was not wise to bypass an ally,” warned the NATO official. “However, the name dispute should remain a bilateral issue and should be resolved under auspices of the United Nations.”

Athens opposes Skopje’s use of the name “Republic of Macedonia” saying it might lead Skopje to make territorial claims over Greece’s own northern province of Macedonia.

Milososki noted his country has already made several concessions to please Greece, including constitutional amendments and changing its national flag. Milososki accused Athens of denying Macedonia its “national identity, language and cultural heritage.”

The increased United States and UN-backed push for finding a compromise to the 17 year-long dispute has so far been in vain. Follow-up talks are expected soon.

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