NEWS

FYROM name talks hit an obstacle

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Diplomacy

Talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the latter’s official name, which had appeared to be in the final stretch, seemed to have run into problems on Friday, with a senior Greek government official saying that a deal was not likely to be reached in the coming days. 

“It seems that FYROM’s side is not yet ready to respond to everything that was agreed in Brussels between the two foreign ministers. Therefore the possibility of an agreement in the coming days appears to be receding,” the official said, adding that it was unlikely Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart Zoran Zaev would speak by phone in the next few days as planned. 

Responding, government sources in FYROM called for “a responsible political attitude of all people involved,” adding, “We must not succumb to speculations right now.” 

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said he and his opposite number in FYROM, Nikola Dimitrov, had concluded talks and that the premiers were to discuss the draft agreement following final talks on legal and technical issues.

According to sources, during those technical-level talks, FYROM officials tried to back down on aspects of the initial framework agreed by the ministers. 

On Wednesday, FYROM President Gjorge Ivanov, who is allied with the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, rejected Greece’s call for an "erga omnes" solution, namely one that would apply both domestically and internationally. VMRO-DPMNE is planning a rally in Skopje on Saturday to protest an erga omnes deal.

Public opposition to a solution is significant. Polls in FYROM showed that six in 10 respondents objected to Zaev’s proposal of Ilindenska Makedonija, which he had touted as a promising solution; it was also rejected by opposition parties in Greece.

Greece’s conservative opposition New Democracy party said on Friday that it would only back a solution that is “unified, direct and conclusive.” It also sought a clarification on the position of Tsipras’s coalition partner Panos Kammenos, who has said he would not support any name containing the term “Macedonia.” 

Pressure has been growing from Western governments for a solution. On Friday the US State Department said it hoped Athens and Skopje would reach “a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue together, which will be in the interests of Euro-Atlantic integration, economic prosperity, peace and stability in the region.”

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