Friday, September 05, 2008

Greece in Stern Reply to Macedonia PM

The Macedonian Premier’s bid to put back on the negotiating table the so-called double formula as the basis for solving the ‘name row’ with Greece has sparked a stern reply from Athens.

“I told Mr. (Matthew) Nimetz (the United Nations mediator in the dispute) that it would be best for him to think again and to press the other side over something that would be a compromise: a dual name,” Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told local media on Sunday while referring to the talks with the UN envoy he had last week.

The double formula envisages one name for Macedonia for international use and another for bilateral relations with Greece.

Gruevski told local media on Sunday that one of the ideas that Nimetz had expressed during his Thursday visit to Skopje “was the use of one name internationally. For us, this is not acceptable and that is where we left it.”

Gruevski is making a big mistake, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told Greek media just a few hours later on Sunday.

“The responsibility for blocking the negotiations and the European and Euro-Atlantic path of his country will fall on Gruevski exclusively,” she said.

Bakoyannis also rebuffed Gruevski’s previous statement in which he accused Greece of a deliberate effort to stall the UN-sponsored name talks.

Meanwhile local media in Skopje cited an unnamed source from Macedonia’s presidential cabinet as saying that Gruevski’s latest statement caught the President Branko Crvenkovski by surprise.

“We are surprised to hear Gruevski talking about this. Macedonia officially deserted the double formula prior to the NATO summit in April and went there with the proposal ‘Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)’. Gruevski then gave consent to this,” the unnamed source from the presidential cabinet told local daily Dnevnik.

However, officially the president did not comment on the latest statement by Gruevski. In an interview for Balkan Insight in June, Macedonia’s President said his country would have to offer more than the use of the double formula if it is to reach a deal with Athens.

Greek -Macedonian relations hit a fresh low in April when Athens blocked Skopje’s invitation to join NATO arguing that Skopje’s name could lead it to make territorial claims on Greece’s own northern province which is also called Macedonia.

The latest statements came after Nimetz held talks with Macedonian and Greek representatives during his visit to both countries last week.

Greek media are reporting fresh UN-sponsored talks for early September and intensified pressure from the United States for a quick resolution to the 17 year-long dispute.

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