Name talks set for Friday

Diplomats in Athens and Skopje were yesterday preparing for a crucial round of talks aimed at settling the Macedonia name dispute after United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz asked them to meet him in New York on Friday. Nimetz is reportedly planning separate meetings with the representatives of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to discuss the assessments of their respective governments on the latest UN proposal for a name solution. The envoy is said to be planning «consecutive talks» with Adamantios Vassilakis and Nikola Dimitrov, who will be in separate rooms, and conclude by briefing each diplomat on the stance of the other side. According to sources, no public statements will be made after the meeting to avoid provoking reactions that might disrupt the smooth process of negotiations. It was unclear yesterday whether Nimetz intends to submit a fresh proposal to the two diplomats at the end of the meeting or whether he will offer some suggestions to each side on how to bridge the gap. The stances of Athens and Skopje are believed to be diametrically opposed, with each side preferring different names from the five proposed by Nimetz. Athens favors Republic of Upper Macedonia as it clearly distinguishes FYROM from the Greek region of Macedonia while Skopje prefers Independent Republic of Macedonia. Senior politicians in Athens made no comments on the Macedonia name issue yesterday. But FYROM’s President Branko Crven-kovski yesterday accused Greece of «using its position (as a NATO member) to try to force a solution favorable to Athens.» Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday said that efforts to solve the Macedonia name dispute should be handled «with caution and seriousness.» «The Church is sensitive to the anxiety and passions of our people… about national issues,» Ieronymos said after Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki called for a mass public rally on the Macedonia name issue. But the archbishop, who has pledged to stay out of politics, unlike his predecessor Christodoulos, did not call for any specific action. Anthimos is expected to raise the issue before the Holy Synod, which convenes tomorrow for the first time under Ieronymos.