Despite the good will on display during Wednesday’s meeting in Athens between Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Dimitrov, it was abundantly clear that there is still a long way to go before the decades-old dispute over the tiny Balkan nation’s name is resolved. The meeting took place as FYROM seeks Greece’s help to join NATO and the European Union.
In a joint press conference, Dimitrov said that he was in Athens to ask for Greece’s support, adding that he was “convinced that you [Kotzias] have the leverage in your hands.”
Kotzias said that Greece is willing to help FYROM in every way to attain its goals, but only after the name issue is resolved. “That is the prerequisite and I believe we must, and can, work towards a good compromise benefiting both sides,” he said, adding that both countries must continue the process to improve relations.
Greece says the use of Macedonia could imply territorial claims on its northern province of the same name.
FYROM’s new government has made joining NATO and the EU a top priority, as ethnic tensions between the country’s Slavic and Albanian populations have escalated in recent months to boiling point, raising questions over its territorial integrity.
For his part, Kotzias reiterated that Greece is committed to stability in the region and FYROM’s territorial integrity, free from the intervention of “third countries.”