Kotzias begins pivotal visit to Skopje as name talks progress

Kotzias begins pivotal visit to Skopje as name talks progress

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias arrived in Skopje on Thursday evening for a landmark visit as talks between the two sides appear to be edging toward a resolution on the longstanding “Macedonia” name dispute. 

Kotzias, who touched down at Skopje International Airport at around 7 p.m. – on what was the first direct flight to Skopje in 12 years – was scheduled to have dinner with his counterpart Nikola Dimitrov ahead of talks today with him and other officials of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. 

Arrangements were made for Kotzias’s trip after Skopje renamed its international airport, removing the name of the Greek warrior king Alexander the Great. 

Apart from symbolic gestures made by both sides, there has been progress on the crux of the issue, with Greek and FYROM officials said to be close on resolving the matter of the name and addressing concerns about irredentism, though obstacles remain. 

A potential stumbling block is Greece’s demands for agreed changes to be reflected in FYROM’s constitution, a prospect that authorities in Skopje appear reluctant to embrace. 

Kotzias and Dimitrov are to continue their talks on Friday, focusing on a seven-point proposal sent to Skopje by Athens earlier this week and a separate list of proposals by Skopje. The two men are expected to give a joint press conference after their talks. 

Later in the day, Kotzias is expected to meet with FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and other government officials.

He is not scheduled to meet FYROM President Gjorge Ivanov, apparently for reasons of protocol, though the latter is known to be a critic of Zaev’s efforts to reach a compromise with Greece on the name issue.

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