FM in landmark visit to Skopje amid rift at home

FM in landmark visit to Skopje amid rift at home

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due to conduct a landmark visit to Skopje Thursday, amid signs that Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are edging closer to a solution on the latter’s official name, though differences remain within the coalition in Athens over the issue.

Kotzias is due to arrive in FYROM’s capital Thursday on the first direct flight between Athens and Skopje in nearly 12 years.

He and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov are to discuss the seven-point proposal sent to Skopje by Athens. Reports indicate that the two sides are close to agreeing on the name Republika Gorna Makedonija (Republic of Upper Macedonia).

However, irrespective of the prospects for progress in the Skopje talks Thursday, there are concerns about lingering divisions in the Greek coalition over the name issue.

Dimitris Kammenos, an MP for Independent Greeks (ANEL), the junior coalition partner, said Wednesday that ANEL will not back the name Republika Gorna Makedonija and indicated that an agreement with Skopje on such a name could shake the government. “It will not be a usual day if the deal on the Skopje issue passes,” he told Skai TV. “It will mean certain changes to the political scene.”

His comments came just a day after Panos Kammenos, ANEL’s leader and defense minister, said he would not accept the use of the term “Macedonia” in a solution for the Balkan state’s official name.

FYROM is also under pressure over a possible deal, from outside forces as well as domestic opponents. Earlier this week the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed Moscow’s disapproval of Skopje’s aspirations to join NATO, noting that such a move “might have negative consequences for regional security and bilateral relations.”

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