NEWS

Name deal in the balance as Russia hints at UN veto

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy, FYROM Referendum

As Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, scrambles to seek political support for a name deal with Greece that drew a low turnout in a referendum on Sunday, Western leaders expressed support for the agreement while Moscow hinted that it could veto the deal at the United Nations Security Council.

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg referred to a “historic opportunity” but stressed that the only way FYROM can join the alliance is by implementing the name deal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry meanwhile noted that the low referendum turnout made its outcome null and void, adding that the conclusions of negotiations between Athens and Skopje could end up being discussed at the UN Security Council.

Zaev must draw another 11 votes to amass the 80 he needs to push the name deal through FYROM’s Parliament and pave the way for his country’s accession to NATO and the European Union. But political opposition to the deal remains strong.

The deal continues to fuel controversy in Greece too. The coalition partner of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who has repeatedly expressed his objection to the agreement, said on Tuesday that he expects it to be brought to Parliament “beyond March,” when he and Tsipras have agreed to revisit the issue, and possibly even after national elections which he said will take place later than May.

The conservative opposition New Democracy meanwhile accused the leftist-led government of being too amenable to its interlocutors in negotiations on the Macedonia name dispute and described the approach taken by both Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias as “amateur” and “opportunistic.”

Commenting on the minutes seen by Kathimerini of meetings between FYROM’s political party leaders about the negotiations with Greece before the name deal was signed in the Prespes lake district in June, ND said it was clear “without a shadow of a doubt” that the government had been ready to agree to the name “Macedonia of Ilinden,” which, it said, would have been “unacceptable.”

The government only changed stance, the conservative party claimed, when ND stressed that the name in question was “the epitome of irredentism by the neighboring country.” 

ND also referred to “clear and absolute complicity” by Kammenos, despite the latter’s voiced objection to a compromise with FYROM. “He gave them the pen to sign the Prespes agreement, pretending to disagree while he continues to support the government absolutely,” ND said.

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