Thursday, April 12, 2018

Greece, Macedonia see progress at name change talks

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — The foreign ministers of Macedonia and Greece say they have achieved progress in talks aimed at resolving a name dispute between the two countries by the end of June.

Nikola Dimitrov of Macedonia and Greece’s Nikos Kotzias met Thursday at the lakeside resort of Ohrid in southwestern Macedonia as part of U.N.-assisted negotiations.

“Our discussions were sincere and covered all the issues under negotiations — on some there were progress, on others differences remain,” Dimitrov said.

Greece has accused the former Yugoslav republic of laying claim to its territory and ancient heritage and wants the tiny nation to add a modifier — like “North” or “New” — to the name Macedonia. Both sides have committed to a name change but remain at odds over constitutional guarantees and descriptions of ethnicity and language.

Athens says it will lift its veto to Macedonia’s accession to NATO if the dispute is resolved. The leaders of NATO countries have a summit in Brussels on July 11-12.

Kotzias, the Greek foreign minister, said tackling issues of irredentism — territorial claims based on ethnicity — remained the most important for Athens.

“There were positive steps. The issues that remain become the tough issues, but hopefully they will become easy ones,” Kotzias said.

Parties in Greece’s governing coalition remain divided on the issue, however, with the nationalist junior partner refusing to back a compromise.

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