NEWS

Significant developments coming

My meetings with both Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and President Branko Crvenkovski were substantive. They are concerned about bilateral relations and the name issue, which has been going on for a long time and has repercussions. They both presented their positions to me clearly. I know where they stand. I have met with them both several times in recent years. We reviewed Greece-FYROM relations, the facts concerning the name and future possibilities. How useful was that in terms of substance? Very. Both sides understand that we are at a stage where significant developments are coming. There were elections in Greece, and everything comes to a halt during the runup to elections. But governments can concentrate on issues a lot better after elections. We are proceeding on the basis of the [1995 Greece-FYROM] Intermediate Agreement and the Security Council resolutions. Which some people, like [UN General Assembly President] Kerim, infringe. It is very clear what the Security Council’s resolutions say about the temporary name in the UN. It is clear what is the correct name for this country and it was not used. That has repercussions. Of course, the president of the General Assembly was in a very peculiar position. But he could have withdrawn, pleading a personal impediment, and allowed his replacement to handle the matter within the framework set by the Security Council’s resolutions. There were many ways of handling the issue. He chose one that will have repercussions on the progress of bilateral relations and the solution of the issue. The temporary name applies in the UN. Anything that makes the atmosphere more difficult does not help. How much of a catalyst will FYROM’s joining NATO be? NATO, and the European Union, are very high priorities for Skopje, and in my view are also very important for the whole region. The issue of the name is very important to Greece. If the issue of the name is resolved, it will help the progress of important procedures, such as the incorporation of the entire region into the institutions of the EU and NATO. Moreover, the issue of the name causes constant friction, as we saw Tuesday with the president’s form of address at the General Assembly. How decisive are the coming months, because of NATO? Have you got a carrot you can use in mediation? The NATO time line is obviously a very important factor. The aim is for the NATO procedure to proceed normally, for bilateral relations to improve and to resolve the dispute concerning the name. US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns expressed the intention of the US to use its influence with Skopje to make progress. Do you expect help from Washington? The US can play a useful role, as can other European states. But especially the US, which has great credibility and is very interested in the region and the NATO process. That’s why I think its role will be useful. Will there be a new round of negotiations? There are two good ambassadors [Adamantios] Vassilakis and [Nikolas] Dimitrov, who enjoy the confidence of their governments at the highest level. So I will soon have a meeting with them. When will you present a new, possibly final, proposal for the name? We will continue our efforts. I am not planning to submit a proposal. You know the word proposal has become a target for many people. Proposals are only useful when they have a chance of success. There are many ideas, which I would say suffice for our discussions. If I think it is useful to make a new report, I will do so at the appropriate moment. Might we not have a UN proposal? How will the two parties reach agreement? There will be reports at the right moment. I have made proposals in the past that got nowhere. That’s why I have to be a bit cautious. Although they are confidential, proposals get leaked and cause reactions and statements. That’s why I am careful. These are the first meetings you’ve had since the elections in Greece. I was pleased to have the opportunity to continue with a government I know and that can make decisions. Do you think that it can govern effectively despite its narrow parliamentary margin? Do you take that factor into account? I have worked with Greek governments since 1977, and I have learnt not to comment on them. Your country has had many governments since then and they usually govern well. Sometimes a narrow margin can prove more powerful than a wide one. Do you have cooperation with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, since it seems likely she will be asked to agree to any solution? She is a very strong personality. She knows the issues and is effective as a leading minister in the role she has undertaken. Our relationship is very frank and open, and I am glad to work with her. Do you think the entry to Parliament of a party that campaigned on the name issue will have an influence? It is something that affects politics in both countries. How is your cooperation with new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon? I had a very substantial meeting with the secretary-general shortly after his election. He invited me to discuss the issue of the name with him and his colleagues. He knew it well from his term as foreign minister of South Korea, since it is an issue that all countries have to deal with at a bilateral and multilateral level. He was supportive and encouraged me to go ahead.