Russian FM says EU and US ‘blackmailed and bribed’ FYROM lawmakers to back name deal

Russian FM says EU and US ‘blackmailed and bribed’ FYROM lawmakers to back name deal

There are no real obstacles standing in the way of strengthening relations between Athens and Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview ahead of a visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Speaking to Greece's Efimderida ton Syntakton newspaper, Lavrov said that Tsipras's trip to Moscow, during which he will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday, is an opportunity to mend ties between Athens and Moscow, after a summer chill prompted by allegations that Russia had tried to foment opposition to the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) through its diplomatic mission in Greece.

Greece is an important ally for maintaining stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Balkans, Lavrov said, going on to accuse the European Union and the United States of “constantly intervening” in the affairs of FYROM.

The Russian foreign minister accused Brussels and Washington of exercising “unprecedented pressure” on the government and voters of FYROM over September's referendum on the name deal and of going on to “blackmail and bribe” lawmakers in Skopje to vote through the constitutional changes demanded by the agreement, even though the referendum “failed.”

“Now there are frantic attempts to get the process in the final stretch by early 2019,” Lavrov told Efimderida ton Syntakton, claiming that Washington's aim is the “forced accession of Skopje into NATO.”

Lavrov dismissed expectations that implementation of the agreement would also speed up FYROM's bid to join the EU, saying that “negotiations in Brussels, as we all know, can take several decades.”

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