Athens ready for next stage of FYROM talks

Athens said yesterday that it had formulated its assessment of a United Nations mediator’s new proposal aimed at solving the Macedonia name dispute and was ready to move on to the next step of negotiations. «Following a comprehensive study… the government has finalized its objections, observations and proposed changes to the proposal,» said a Foreign Ministry statement released yesterday afternoon. There was no official statement by a government official yesterday specifying Greece’s stance but sources told Kathimerini that Athens favored one out of five composite names proposed by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz and was open to debating a second. The name favored by Athens – as it gives a geographical determination for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and so clearly distinguishes it from Greece’s region of Macedonia – is Republic of Upper Macedonia. Another of Nimetz’s proposals – New Republic of Macedonia – would be subject to debate if it were modified to Republic of New Macedonia, the sources said. The fine details of Nimetz’s proposals were made public in a document leaked to the daily Vima yesterday. The Foreign Ministry condemned the leak, claiming that it could «undermine the negotiation effort.» Meanwhile, sources said that the government was keen to move forward quickly with talks to avert the possible negative impact of protracted public debate on the proposal, particularly now that the comprehensive proposal has been made public. Greece has expressed its preference for the use of a single name by FYROM – rather than a «dual solution» where there would be different names for domestic and international use. As it seems that a dual solution is unavoidable, Greece is said to be intent on determining how this formula would be implemented. Athens is expected to insist on the use of the composite name chosen for FYROM – and not the country’s constitutional name of Macedonia – on citizens’ passports. FYROM has already expressed its strong objections to the use of anything other than its constitutional name on passports. Yesterday FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski aired his objections to Nimetz’s proposal, maintaining that it was more detrimental for Skopje than the suggestion made by Nimetz in 2005, namely Republika Makedonija-Skopje. Nevertheless, Crvenkovski said one of the five composite names proposed by Nimetz might be acceptable, namely: Independent Republic of Macedonia. The FYROM leader also suggested an alternative: People’s Republic of Macedonia. But overall Crvenkovski appeared displeased with Nimetz’s proposal, which he described as «a product of Greek pressure.» FYROM’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski stressed that his country would not accept the «negative points» of the UN envoy’s proposal. Bakoyannis accepts responsibility for leak of Nimetz document Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said yesterday that she took full «political responsibility» for the leaking to a newspaper of the proposal’s made by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz on the Macedonia name issue. Bakoyannis made the statement to a parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee after coming under attack from opposition MPs over her handling of the negotiations. The leaking of the document, which appeared in the Vima newspaper yesterday, was greeted with disbelief by the government and considerable frustration by the United States and the UN, sources said. «This is a serious political and institutional slip-up,» said PASOK MP Panos Beglitis. «It raises doubts about the political reliability of the government.» The Foreign Ministry and prime minister’s office both denied being responsible for the secret proposals finding their way into the newspaper. Bakoyannis pledged to try to find the source of the leak. «I accept the political responsibility [for the leak],» she told the 49 MPs on the committee. «The government made the utmost effort to maintain confidentiality. I do not know how this damaging leak came about. I will look into it.» Bakoyannis went on to inform the members of the panel about the points discussed with Nimetz. The committee session was not covered by Parliament’s CCTV network in a bid to prevent further leaks.