In what is seen as an expression of Berlin’s eagerness to see a solution to the decades-old name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter’s name, German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the matter in a phone conversation with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday.
The German leader also spoke with FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
No details were available about what was said during the two conversations as neither Athens nor Skopje want Merkel’s call to be perceived as a German intervention to bridge the gap between the two sides.
The German chancellor’s initiative comes after last week’s phone call between Tsipras and US Vice President Mike Pence, and reflects growing international pressure for a deal.
The name dispute will be on the agenda of Wednesday's meeting in New York between Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Negotiations are set to resume on Thursday with a three-way meeting between Kotzias, United Nations special mediator Matthew Nimetz and FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
After Greece’s rejection of Zaev’s proposal of “Ilindenska Makedonija” as a candidate name for FYROM, four of the five names put forward by Nimetz have reportedly returned to the fore.
Despite Greece’s rejection of Ilinden, the proposal entailed that the name would be used erga omnes – nationally and internationally – which is a key Greek demand.
Analysts say that since Skopje accepted the concept of erga omnes for Ilinden then it could do the same for another name. Even though no breakthrough is expected in New York, the coming days may offer a glimmer of a way forward, as Kotzias is planning back-to-back visits to Brussels, Berlin and Paris.
In Athens, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is also leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks, said that his party will not under any circumstances accept FYROM’s use of the term “Macedonia” as part of a composite name.
He also said that he doesn’t expect a solution to the dispute, and blamed authorities in Skopje.
He said that the Greek demand for FYROM to amend its constitution, ridding it of clauses that Athens views as irredentist, would never pass through parliament in Skopje.