Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said on Monday that he and his counterpart Nikola Dimitrov have done everything in their power to pave the way for a breakthrough in talks between Athens and Skopje for settling a decades-old dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
“We the foreign ministers have finished everything that was assigned to us by the prime ministers of the two countries,” Kotzias said following a working breakfast with Dimitrov in Brussels, on the sidelines of a meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council.
“The negotiation will continue today and possibly tomorrow on the level of experts. The issues that need to be dealt with now are technical and legal,” Kotzias added. “As soon as they are finished and the technical and legal issues have been clarified, the documents prepared on the level of foreign ministers will be handed to the two prime ministers, who will talk between themselves and come to a final agreement.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and FYROM’s Zoran Zaev had held talks in Bulgaria earlier this month that were seen as critical in breaking an impasse in the United Nations-mediated talks and leading to last week’s flurry of diplomatic activity.
It is not clear, however, what name or names are currently on the negotiating table after Greece’s main opposition parties rejected “Republic of Ilinden Macedonia,” which is the proposal that emerged from the prime ministers’ talks in Sofia.
The government’s junior right-wing coalition partner, Independent Greeks, meanwhile, has also strongly signaled that it will not back any proposal that contains the term “Macedonia,” which is seen by many Greeks as expressing irredentist claims over the northern Greece region of the same name.
In comments to the MIA news agency earlier, Dimitrov suggested that the two foreign ministers had agreed upon a compromise.
“We had a constructive discussion and have the framework of a compromise,” Dimitrov said, adding that Zaev would be meeting Tsipras within the next week to discuss the proposal.
Optimism was also expressed by the European Commission’s vice president for foreign affairs, who attended Monday’s working breakfast.
“We are all very encouraged by the progress made especially on the negotiations between Skopje and Athens on the name issue,” said Federica Mogherini. “We will all work to support and accompany, hopefully, a positive outcome of these important negotiations.”