The Prespes name deal signed between Athens and Skopje should serve as a blueprint for resolving many bilateral differences in the Western Balkans, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer was quoted on Friday by the Athens-Macedonia News Agency as telling Radio Free Europe.
According to the ANA-MPA, Palmer, who has responsibility for the Western Balkans and the Aegean, urged the leaderships of Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina to take a leaf out of Athens and Skopje's book and settle ongoing disputes that have been marring bilateral relations for decades, in an interview with the American media outlet.
“The Prespes agreement showed us the importance of leadership skills,” Palmer said, in translated comments.
The US official went on to dismiss claims by critics of the name agreement that it was reached as a result of foreign intervention, stressing that it was “an achievement of the leadership skills of prime ministers [Zoran] Zaev and [Alexis] Tsipras and of the two countries' foreign ministers.”
“The leaderships took an enormous political risk and achieved a compromise.... and now the benefits are starting to show,” Palmer is quoted by the Greek news agency as saying.
Palmer added that the process for North Macedonia's membership to NATO is expected to be wrapped up soon, while also expressing hope that the Balkan nation can begin accession talks with the European Union within the next couple of months.
Speaking on the subject of US foreign policy in the Western Balkans, Palmer said that Washington has “invested politically, but also economically in order to achieve stability, and is not about to give up.”
He went on to express concern about Russian interest in the region, saying that the United States and the European Union “want stability, the implementation of European values and transparency in public life” in the region, whereas Moscow “wants the area to remain divided, with instability, tension and conflict.”
He cited Moscow's opposition to the Prespes agreement as indicative of this approach.