Friday, June 06, 2008

Greece Bars Macedonia Leader's Plane

Greece refused to allow Macedonia’s President Branko Crvenkovski to land in Athens because his plane has the name 'Macedonia' written on it.

Greek authorities however did offer Crvenkovski alternative forms of transport, which the Macedonian leader found unacceptable.

Crvenkovski then cancelled his participation at Thursday's regional presidential summit in the Greek capital. Crvenkovski was due to attend the Summit of Chiefs of States from South Eastern Europe.

“This act goes against the international norms and principles and does not contribute to the development of good neighbourly relations and to the pledges for sharing common European and democratic values,” the President’s cabinet press release reads.

In late April, Athens banned a Macedonian plane full of passengers from entering its airspace due to Greek objections to the carrier's name, Macedonian Airlines, MAT.

Greece says Skopje's use of the name Macedonia implies its territorial claims over Greece's northern province of the same name.

Greek-Macedonia relations hit a new low in April after Athens vetoed Skopje’s invitation to join NATO arguing that the country should change its name first.

The name row has been ongoing for 17 years and United Nations-sponsored talks have failed to produce a breakthrough.

Crvenkovski was invited to attend the Athens summit by his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias and the UN cultural organisation, UNESCO's director Koichiro Matsuura, who is co-organising the event.

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