Monday, June 09, 2008

Greece-Macedonia Name Talks to Resume

Greek and Macedonian negotiators in the name row are to meet Thursday in New York with the UN, Macedonian diplomats have told Balkan Insight.

The diplomats who wish to stay anonymous said the meeting with the Greek ambassador to the United Nations, Adamantios Vassilakis and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov would be in preparation for UN envoy Matthew Nimetz’s planned visit to the region soon.

Macedonia’s government spokesman Ivica Bocevski on Monday neither confirmed nor denied the information for Balkan Insight.

The meeting will take place after they were stalled due to the June 1 general elections in Macedonia.

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.

Greece says the name Macedonia implies Skopje's territorial claims over Greece's own northern province of the same name. The name row has been ongoing for 17 years. UN-sponsored talks have failed to provide a breakthrough in the dispute so far.

Skopje should solve the row by July 9 if it wishes to catch up with Albania and Croatia who in April secured their NATO invitations. On that date both countries are to sign the accession protocol with the alliance.

But analysts in both countries argue it would be highly unlikely for a quick compromise solution to be reached soon considering the hardline rhetoric of both Skopje and Athens expressed in the last months.

On Friday Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in Athens that his country’s position towards Macedonia’s name “remains unchanged.”

Previously Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki expressed pessimism about a quick solution, blaming Athens for not recognising Macedonia’s ethnic identity.

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