NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg indicated on Thursday that there is no plan B for Skopje to join the alliance if it does not resolve its decades-old name dispute with Greece and launch wide-ranging reforms.
Although Stoltenberg told Parliament in Skopje that he “strongly welcomes” FYROM’s NATO aspirations, he clarified that while it is “good to be ambitious, it is also important to be realistic.”
“There is still much hard work to be done. That means, of course, resolving the issue of your country’s name. It’s an issue that has weighed on this region – and this country – for far too long,” he said.
His comments follow the resumption of negotiations on Wednesday under the aegis of United Nations special mediator Matthew Nimitz.
For his part, while leaving a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias refused to comment on rampant media speculation in Skopje about the contents of the name proposals submitted by Nimetz to Greek negotiator Adamantios Vasilakis and his opposite number Vasko Naumovski.
According to a report published in Skopje-based website www.mkd.mk, Nimetz tabled five name proposals – Republika Nova Makedonija, Republika Gorna Makedonija, Republika Severna Makedonija, Republika Vardarska Makedonija and Republika Makedonija (Skopje).
The site also said that Nimetz proposed that FYROM’s language and nationality should be called Makedonski and Makedonska respectively.
Meanwhile, in what was seen as an unusual political move, Tsipras met on Thursday with Greek Archbishop Ieronymos to discuss the ongoing negotiations before the government briefed the country’s political party leaders on the latest developments.
The meeting took place at the Archbishopric in Athens after Tsipras was briefed by Kotzias on the results of the talks so far.
A close aide justified the premier’s decision to speak with the archbishop before party leaders, saying that “we inform anyone who asks us.”
The aide added that the two men had exchanged letters on the name dispute before their meeting and that they are in regular contact.
However, New Democracy took issue with the government on Thursday for making decisions without informing party leaders.