NEWS

Name talks came close, Nimetz says

During the two decades that Athens and Skopje have been debating the issue of an official name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) there were several moments that government officials showed the political will to reach a compromise but never both sides at the same time, the UN?s mediator in the dispute, Matthew Nimetz, has told Kathimerini.

The closest the talks came to a breakthrough was in February 2001 when Greece?s prime minister was Costas Simitis and FYROM?s was Ljubco Georgievski, Nimetz told Sunday?s Kathimerini. The two leaders had been ready to agree on the term ?Upper Macedonia,? he said, but nationalist rallies in Skopje derailed the process.

Asked about current prospects, Nimetz -- who in 2008 proposed the formula ?Republic of Northern Macedonia? -- was guarded. ?I will not make a new proposal unless there are of signs of serious interest from both sides,? he said.

According to classified diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Athens obtained by WikiLeaks and seen by Kathimerini in March, Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos in February 2008 told the US ambassador to Greece, Daniel Speckhard, that the name dispute had been a ?disaster? from the start and that FYROM should be allowed to use any name it wants. Pangalos had been a PASOK MP at the time.

[An earlier version of this report incorrectly attributed to United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz a statement relating to talks on the name dispute betweeen Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in February 2001. It was not Nimetz but sources who told Kathimerini that these talks had come close to a breakthrough.]

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