Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Dimitrov, and United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz are due to meet in Vienna on Tuesday as talks aimed at resolving the longstanding name dispute gather pace.
Kotzias and Dimitrov were also due to meet in the Austrian capital on Monday night following a surprise announcement by the two countries and the UN regarding the latest phase of the negotiations. The talks may continue in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday and Friday. Without giving any further details, the UN said that the Vienna meeting is aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told SYRIZA MPs in Athens that his government continues to be focused on reaching a compromise with Skopje. He denied that his administration has snubbed the recent protests in Greece against the neighboring country being allowed to use the term “Macedonia” in a name.
“A week ago, we had a large rally in Athens,” he said. “Some people said that the government is ignoring the demonstrations. We are not ignoring anyone. But I wonder what the message from this rally was.”
He noted that Greece has accepted its neighbor using “Macedonia” for many years, including in the name Athens has accepted for more than two decades as part of an interim agreement between the two countries. He insisted that his aim is not to give the name away but to take something back so that there is a geographical qualifier and Greece’s neighbors cannot appropriate Greek symbols and names.
FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was in Ankara yesterday, where he asked for and received Turkey’s support for FYROM’s bid to join NATO. “We expect progress in NATO and EU integration this year,” Zaev reportedly said during his meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim.
“It is wrong for another country to determine the name of a country,” said Yildrim afterward. He called for Athens and Skopje to settle their dispute amicably.