European, US officials see window of opportunity for Greece and FYROM

European, US officials see window of opportunity for Greece and FYROM

Next year could be pivotal for the resolution of a longstanding dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the Balkan state’s official name, diplomatic sources have indicated to Kathimerini.

Officials in Europe and Washington believe that there could be a window of opportunity to solve the name row in the period between local elections in October this year in FYROM and presidential elections there in 2019.

Hopes of a resolution were raised after Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev formed a government in June, following months of political upheaval. After the formation of the new coalition, FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov last month traveled to Athens to meet Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias, with the latter due to visit Skopje at the end of August.

Another reason diplomats believe a solution might be reachable is that American interest has shifted back to the region, chiefly over fears that Russia could seek to expand its influence over weak nations such as Bosnia-Herzegovina.

According to sources, American officials have observed a return to pragmatism in FYROM, with authorities there apparently prepared to make compromises and concessions. However, officials in FYROM also appear to be buoyed by an apparent readiness in Athens to discuss composite names for FYROM.

Western diplomats have been pressuring neither Athens nor Skopje to make concessions at this phase but they have proposed that both sides avoid public dialogue on the issue to avoid raising expectations, sources said. The aim is for steps to be taken on both sides next year and for negotiations to be completed before FYROM’s presidential elections in 2019, when Greece will face general elections.

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