UN Envoy Hopeful on Macedonia ‘Name’ Agreement

The UN mediator in the Macedonia-Greece “name” dispute has told journalists following fresh talks between the two sides in New York that he believes the dispute could be solved within the next six months. He added that he “truly” believes both governments have genuine intentions to solve it.

“I am very hopeful that this process is moving in a positive direction,” Nimetz said, following talks with envoys from the two countries at the United Nations.

As expected, Nimetz said that he put on the table “a set of ideas” for a name settlement but declined to comment on their exact content.

However, he said his proposals for a settlement were not completely new, but were being proposed in a new context, meaning different political circumstances and amid increased optimism on both sides.

Nimetz said that within the next few weeks he aims to visit both capitals, Athens and Skopje, to feel the pulse regarding his proposals and see whether the talks could move forward.

“I am hopeful that my suggestions would lead them, both governments, to think creatively about a solution,” Nimetz said.

The UN envoy also asked leaders of the opposition parties in both countries to take a “constructive attitude” to help solve the issue.

The Macedonian government’s offered a measured response when first reacting to the negotiations, saying only that it would “carefully analyse” Nimitz’s proposals and continue building wide support for the issue at home.

Official Skopje also said that the right conditions exist to move forward with process of finding a solution to the name issue.

The dispute centres on Greece’s insistence that use of the word “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Amid recent optimism from both sides, as well as from Brussels and Washington, Macedonia’s new government, elected in May last year, hopes for a breakthrough in the talks, which would then clear the way for the country to join NATO this year as well as finally start accession talks with the EU.

In an interview with BIRN published on Wednesday, Macedonia’s foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, said the two countries have a duty to use the current momentum to finally resolve their ancient disputes.

The resumption of the bilateral talks in New York coincided with the first visit of the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to Macedonia, which also sent a message of encouragement for a speedy name deal.

On arrival to Skopje on Wednesday, Stoltenberg told Macedonia’s MIA news agency that NATO would invite Macedonia to join the alliance as soon as it solves the dispute with Greece.

Macedonia’s Name Negotiator Causes Confusion

The unusual reaction by Macedonia’s name negotiator, Vasko Naumovski, has caused confusion, after he made his own personal comment on the package of proposals following the talks.

Outside of the usual practice, Naumovski told Macedonian Sitel TV that the proposals are “far from a dignifying solution” for his country. He also distanced himself from any stance that his government might have on the matter.

Naumovski was appointed by the previous government led by the now opposition right-wing VMRO DPMNE party, which had a far more rigid stance on finding a solution to the name dispute, and by the Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, who also came to office thanks to the backing of VMRO DPMNE.

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