Positive signals that a resolution to the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could be within reach emerged from Vienna on Friday where foreign ministers of the two countries held talks under the aegis of United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz.
After talks that lasted for a total of around six hours, Nikos Kotzias said that both sides have taken stock of where they agree and where they don’t.
“We have identified the major issues for each side and I hope that in our next meeting we will be ready to take a big step,” he said, without elaborating further what that “big step” will be.
Kotzias also praised the “great job” being done by diplomats to outline a positive agenda for the future cooperation and common course of the two countries, “providing, as I’m hoping, that the name dispute is resolved.”
Diplomats from both sides met in parallel to the meetings between the two ministers and Nimetz to promote the positive aspects of relations between Greece and FYROM.
For his part, Nimetz said that despite the differences, there have been great improvements in various areas.
According to diplomatic sources, the main obstacles to a deal are the articles that are deemed irredentist in FYROM’s constitution and the name it will use at home and abroad.
The same sources said that Athens would consider it ideal if Skopje revised the wording of Article 49 of its constitution, which refers to diaspora citizens of FYROM, so that there are no hints of irredentism.
Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov will meet again immediately after Greek Easter on April 8 and, if there is progress, meetings at a higher level may follow.
The difficulties of the negotiations, as well as the prospects of progress, were also touched upon by Dimitrov.
“There has been some progress in negotiations with regard to the name issue,” the FYROM foreign minister said, adding that “the more the negotiations move forward, the more difficult the issues we will be faced with will be.” He added that talks will continue and that both sides have many things to think about.
“In my opinion there has been great progress in various issues and these will help to stabilize the region,” he said.