NEWS

Name settlement a condition for normalizing Skopje ties, says PM

Lucas Papademos, Greece's interim prime minister, has said Athens is keen to normalize relations with Skopje, while pledging Greek support for the former Yugoslav state's European Union ambitions.

?Greece wants good neighborly ties with FYROM and for this reason it has in many cases backed Skopje's European course,? Papademos said on Monday.

His comments came after the International Court of Justice on Monday ruled that Greece was wrong to block a bid by FYROM to join NATO in 2008. The Hague-based tribunal found that Greece's veto breached a provisional 1995 deal under which Greece had agreed not to block membership of the country in international organizations if it used the name FYROM.

The ruling however does not resolve a more fundamental dispute: Athens has for years been locked in a name dispute with Skopje, objecting the use of the name ?Macedonia? saying it implies a claim to the northern Greek province that has the same same.

Papademos on Monday said that reaching a settlement on the name issue is precondition for normalization of bilateral ties between the two neighbors.

?Constant provocations do not contribute toward the building of good neighborly ties,? the Greek premier said.

In the summer, Skopje erected a giant bronze statue of Alexander the Great, further inflaming the long-running row with Athens.

Alexander the Great's equestrian statue is the center piece of a controversial project by the FYROM government called Skopje 2014, aimed at upgrading the battered capital.

Earlier on Monday, Giorgos Karatzaferis, leader of the far right LAOS party involved in the provisional administration, said his party would leave the crisis coalition if FYROM were to be officially recognized as ?Macedonia.?

Karatzaferis, who also called for a referendum on the name of the former Yugoslav state, blamed LAOS's bigger coalition partners ? PASOK socialists and New Democracy conservatives -- for Monday's ruling which, he said, at a ?difficult time? for Greece.

Online