Thursday, June 18, 2009

NATO chief urges Macedonia to solve name row with Greece

NATO Secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Friday urged Macedonia to solve its name row with Greece, saying it's the only obstacle on its way to NATO.

"Unfortunately NATO can't play any role in this matter. We wish to see it settled as soon as possible," de Hoop Scheffer, who is on a farewell visit to Macedonia, said after meeting with the country's leaders.

According to reports reaching here from Skopje, the NATO chief reaffirmed that NATO's door is always open to western Balkan countries, because the region's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions is the only recipe for its lasting stability and security.

Macedonia's NATO bid was thwarted by Greece over the 19-year-long name dispute between the two neighbors at the alliance's summit in Bucharest last April.

Athens has contended that the former Yugoslav state's determination to call itself Macedonia has concealed territorial ambitions over its own northern province of the same name.

De Hoop Scheffer expressed satisfaction with the fact that nine new members joined NATO on his watch as Secretary-general, hoping for Macedonia to become the 10th.

His mandate as NATO chief will soon come to an end. He will be succeeded by former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is going to take office on Aug. 1.

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