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Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 

Optimism in Skopje and Athens prior to fresh round of name talks in Brussels

Optimism in Skopje and Athens prior to fresh round of name talks in Brussels

Skopje, 10 December 2017 (MIA) - The UN mediator in the name talks between Macedonia and Greece, Matthew Nimetz, will meet with negotiators of both countries, Vasko Naumovski and Adamantios Vassilakis, following a three-year break, on Dec. 11 and 12 in Brussels.

The meeting, as the Nimetz’s office announced, is part of the UN’s efforts to help both sides to find a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue.

The re-start of the name talks comes in the period of improved political climate between Macedonia and Greece and optimistic expectations from Skopje and Athens but also from Washington and Brussels to end of decades-old dispute.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has expressed his commitment, in an exclusive interview with Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), to building a friendly relationship with Greece based on mutual trust that will facilitate a resolution to the issue of his country's name.

Zaev directly called for "support and help from Greek citizens and, naturally, through institutions, from the Greek government, the opposition and the Greek Parliament."

The naming issue "is a delicate issue and is not easy for the Greek politicians, either," he noted but he expressed willingness "to try to understand each other and encourage a resolution that will be mutually acceptable." This he said would place a priority on "caring more for our future than for our past."

In regard to the range of concessions that he is prepared to make, but also whether he agrees with changing the name of the airport, Zaev said "it is clear that it is easier to change the name of an airport than the name of the country."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expects changes in the Balkans in 2018 and positive developments related to the issue of Macedonia, if Skopje decides to take positive steps forward.

If they give up rhetoric and statements that they are the only descendants of Alexander the Great and from their irredentist claims, then perhaps we could find a common solution. In that case, I would be the first to guarantee the European perspective, security and safety of that country. You know, we want to make a future in which we will all live and cooperate together peacefully. What divide us is lesser than what unite us, Tsipras said Saturday (Dec. 9) at the joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose.

Earlier, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that he expected the issue to be closed in the first half of the next year. However, Kotzias said that the solution must be a compromise on the name to open Macedonia's path to the EU and other organisations it wants to join.

Hoyt Brian Yee, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn also expressed their optimisms that the name dispute can finally be resolved. The process of solving the name dispute is better than it has ever been and is the closest it has ever been to finding a resolution, Yee said. Hahn said that he hopes a political decision with Greece on the start of membership talks with Macedonia will be taken in the first half of 2018.

Nimetz stated to the Independent Balkan News Agency - IBNA that he sees good will of finding a solution on both sides, expressing hopes that the so-called red lines set by Athens and Skopje would be overcome.

Greek comment that Nimetz's meeting with the representatives of the two countries in Brussels is a sign of the continuity of the positive climate that has been created in the relations between the two countries after the change of power in Macedonia. As the timeframe that moves the resolution of the dispute and the finding mutually acceptable solution, is the next NATO summit which is scheduled to be held on July 11 and 12 in Brussels, at which Macedonia hopes will finally open the way to becoming a member of the Alliance.

Greek media also announce that it is likely Nimetz to present a new name proposal at the meeting in Brussels.

The last formal round of talks between the UN mediator and the two countries’ negotiators was held in New York in Nov. 2014. sk/11:55


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