|Greece wants Macedonia
name issue resolved
Thursday, September 27, 2007 1:05 PM
ATHENS, Greece-Greece wants to resolve a dispute with Macedonia that
could threaten the Balkan country's prospects of joining NATO and the EU,
a Greek diplomatic official said Thursday. Greece and Macedonia have been
at odds for more than 15 years over the name of the former Yugoslav republic,
which gained independence in 1991.
"Our position is clear. We want a mutually acceptable solution," the
official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of
the problem, adding that such a solution would entail both sides meeting
Athens has implied it could use its veto to prevent Macedonia from joining
NATO and the European Union unless the issue is resolved. The dispute flared
at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, when assembly president Srgjan
Kerim used the name Macedonia when introducing that nation's president,
Greece's mission to the U.N. denounced what it called Kerim's "unacceptable
action," and said it "reaffirms the provocative and uncompromising position
of the government of Skopje," referring to the country's capital.
Athens maintains that the name Macedonia belongs to a Greek province
and that its use by its northern neighbor implies a territorial claim on
Greece. Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, but U.N.-backed
negotiations on the name issue have remained deadlocked. The country is
known officially in international bodies, including the United Nations,
the European Union and NATO, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
Greece hopes the issue can be resolved before the NATO summit next year,
where Macedonia expects to be asked to join the alliance, the official
During a pre-election speech earlier this month, Prime Minister Costas
Karamanlis warned Skopje that Athens would prevent it from joining NATO
and the EU unless the issue was resolved.
"We call on them to sit seriously at the negotiating table, and we call
on them to immediately stop these policies that poison and undermine" relations,
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told The Associated Press in an interview
Despite the name issue, the two countries enjoy good economic ties,
with Greece being a major investor in Macedonia.
The United States and many other countries have recognized the country
as Macedonia. Last week, Canada became the latest nation to officially
discard the FYROM acronym.