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Matthew Nimetz: Special UN mediator seeks a just solution ‘I try to be objective and even-handed’ to both sides involved

Matthew Nimetz is searching for a just solution, which, as the product of compromise, will be in part painful, but will allow Athens and Skopje to normalize relations to the benefit of all. In a brief comment to Kathimerini, a few days after giving the two governments his proposal, Nimetz noted that he approaches the issue with objectivity and respect to both countries. «I try to be objective and even-handed and I care a lot about both countries. I have a deep interest, which I have shown over the years, in Greece and its role in the Bal-kans, and also in this little country working out its destiny,» says the UN mediator whose involvement with this issue goes back 14 years. He began in March 1994 when he was designated as deputy to then UN negotiator, Cyrus Vance. «A lot of what I do here is because I care about two neighbors working out a sensitive and tough problem. I am trying my best to be objective, and I hope I do give the impression that I am fair-minded. Because of what I do, sometimes I get criticized from the one or the other side that on some points I am closer to other,» said the UN mediator, who at this sensitive phase of the process declared that he will not make any more public statements: «My plan is to set a specific date for the next round of talks after I receive official word from both sides that they have completed their review and are ready with a detailed response and have confirmed convenient dates.» Nimetz has a reputation for being discreet and objective. An attorney in New York, he heads General Atlantic Partners, an investment firm with offices in Manhattan and Connecticut, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Policy. He doesn’t think that he has the right to impose a solution. As a UN source who knows Nimetz’s views said, «The mediator proposes, he doesn’t decide; he is not an arbitrator.» His involvement with Greek issues started in the 1970s, when he helped deal with the Cyprus issue as undersecretary of state in the Carter administration. He handled Greek-Turkish relations and Cyprus under Vance, then the secretary of state. A decade earlier, they had both worked for Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration. When Richard Nixon was elected, Nimetz worked in Vance’s legal office, becoming undersecretary of state when the Democrats returned to power in 1977. His first diplomatic mission to Athens was when Constantine Karamanlis was premier, but the first issue related to Greece that he dealt with in depth was FYROM, 15 years later when he was appointed as deputy to Vance. The interim agreement of 1995 was reached after a two-year negotiating marathon. In early September 1995, Vance and Nimetz succeeded in reaching an agreement among the UN negotiators, Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias and his FYROM counterpart Branko Crvenkovski. Nimetz described the scene to Kathimerini: «I remember us sitting in a room. The two parties never met each other until we signed this. We sat in a room. Each delegation came in. They presented their points and they left. And then the other one came in. And we tried to broker between the two of them, and finally we resolved most of the issues, but of course the name issue we could never resolve, so we put it off.» In December 1999, Nimetz himself became UN special negotiator, and has spent the past nine years on the negotiations. His income for this service amounts to one dollar per annum.