Saturday, July 19, 2008

FYROM pushes ‘refugee’ demands

Athens yesterday rebuffed calls by the foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for current citizens of FYROM who left Greece during the civil war to be allowed to reclaim lost property and apply for Greek citizenship.

Sources dismissed the comments by Antonio Milososki as a departure from the focus of talks between Greek and FYROM government officials which are aimed at finding a mutually acceptable name for FYROM. But Milososki said Athens was trying to address other issues. “If we follow this logic, then it would be good to close all issues that might cause misunderstandings in the future,” Milososki said. “This applies also to the restitution of properties of the refugees from Greece who are Macedonian citizens, but have grounds for receiving Greek citizenship too,” Milososki said.

Greek diplomatic sources said it was FYROM, not Greece, that has been trying to divert ongoing UN-mediated talks from the name issue. Greece has said solving the name dispute is a priority.

The same point was made in a letter sent by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to his FYROM counterpart Branko Crvenkovski. “Macedonia is fully qualified to join NATO but it should resolve the name dispute with Greece beforehand,” Sarkozy said in the letter, made public yesterday. In a speech before the Greek Parliament last month, Sarkozy had said France would stand firmly by Greece’s side in the name dispute.

In a related development, sources told Kathimerini that groups representing FYROM citizens in Greece are organizing a rally at the Niki border crossing with FYROM in which they have invited “all refugees chased out of Greece” to participate.

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