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Thursday, July 31, 2014, 

Robin O'Neil: Time has come to put an end to name issue

Skopje, 12 May 2013 (MIA) - After 20 years of efforts made to resolve the name dispute, the time has come to finally close this issue which in fact has no essence hindering the Euro-Atlantic integration of Macedonia, says Robin O'Neil - the first international mediator in the Macedonia-Greece name dispute.

In an interview with "Voice of the People" program on Sun TV, the diplomat says that several legal steps are at Macedonia's disposal adding that the step most likely to succeed should be chosen.

He comments on the proposal by world-renowned lawyer, professor Igor Janev - Macedonia to file a request to the UN Secretary General asking the General Assembly to include an item in its agenda urging the International Court of Justice to present its own opinion about the legitimacy of the conditions imposed on Macedonia during its admission to the UN in 1993 to accept the temporary reference FYROM and to negotiate with Greece about its name.

"This is an important proposal. In my opinion, Macedonia has three foreign policy priorities - to maintain good neighbourly relations with its neighbours, to secure international recognition of the name of its choice and to join EU and NATO. Membership in EU and NATO is of crucial importance for Macedonia due to economic and political reasons... I believe that the Macedonian government needs to negotiate with EU members about the fact that the future of Balkan countries lies in the EU and that it would be unfavourable for the stability and prosperity of the region if Macedonia is to be excluded. However, Greece's objection to opening negotiations with Macedonia is still an obstacle," says O'Neil.

He adds that under the 1995 Interim Accord, Greece is obliged not to hinder Macedonia to apply for EU or NATO membership under the reference FYROM. The diplomat also points out to the decision of the International Court of Justice urging Greece to abide by this article of the agreement.

"I think now a path has been paved for the government of Macedonia to file an official request for EU or NATO membership or for both under the name FYROM in order to test the readiness of Greece to respect its obligations and the preparedness of other EU members to say that Greece has no other choice but to abide by the obligation... On the other hand, if Macedonia applies for EU membership with the acronym FYROM, the negotiations would take years to end and during that time Macedonia would have to accept that for many countries its formal international name would still be Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," states the British diplomat.

O'Neil concludes that many of Greece's main reasons to object to the use of the name Macedonia have proven to be groundless i.e. that by using its constitutional name Macedonia was showing territorial pretensions towards Greece.

According to him, claims that Greece has historical right to the name Macedonia have no legal significance. "For many centuries the name Macedonia referred to a territory that is much bigger than the Republic of Macedonia or the Greek province of Macedonia. By the way, Macedonia never objected the northern province of Greece to bear the name Macedonia," O'Neil says amongst other things. ba/16:45

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