The conclusion of negotiations between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is being held up by disagreements over the “interpretation” of the legal documents and not over principle, according to senior ranking officials in Skopje.
However, both sides have signaled they expect a deal in coming days, even though Athens drew a distinction, albeit via a leak, between FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as someone conducive to a deal and his foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, as someone prone to raising obstacles.
The expectations emanating from Skopje were indicated in remarks by FYROM’s Deputy Premier Bujar Osmani, who said Friday that both sides may have differences in approach but not enough to lead to a collapse of talks.
“I think these are last steps of a marathon that has lasted for 35 years. Usually, the final meters are the most crucial and determine either a positive or negative direction,” he said, insisting that now is an ideal time for a deal that will pave the way for his country’s induction into NATO and the beginning of its EU accession talks.
FYROM’s Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska said Friday that her country has made strides in the process to incorporate itself in the structures of NATO and that it deserves to join. Skopje’s only remaining bilateral difference, she said, is the dispute with Greece.
However, not everyone in Skopje is on board for a deal given the objections voiced by a wing of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party which claims that the Zaev government is ready to sign a bad deal.
Former ambassador Risto Nikovski, a backer of Slavo-Macedonian irredentism, denounced Zaev in a newspaper article for accepting the Greek demand that any name agreed to will be used erga omnes – nationally and internationally.