Athens on FYROM name talks: ‘Ball is in their court’

Athens on FYROM name talks: ‘Ball is in their court’

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Sunday it is up to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to make the next move in the ongoing negotiations aiming to resolve the decades-old name row.

“The Greek government is waiting for Mr. Zaev to make the decisive step to reach an agreement. The ball is in their court,” he told TV station Kontra channel, referring to FYROM’s Premier Zoran Zaev.

Tzanakopoulos said he cannot anticipate when the prime ministers of the two countries, Alexis Tsipras and Zaev, will speak on the phone, an indication that talks are moving into their final stage, as “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

The prospects for a breakthrough in talks are unclear as technical-level discussions between the two sides have been ridden with obstacles.

In comments on Saturday, Zaev said he was “optimistic” but that certain “technical details” remain to be settled, adding that he would telephone his Greek counterpart when those issues have been resolved.

Some sources say a deal is likely to be long in the making, not least because Zaev faces significant pushback in his country, with the political opposition planning protest rallies.

The dispute has soured relations between the two countries for decades and Greece has blocked FYROM’s attempts to join the European Union and NATO.

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