Fears cloud crucial round of name talks

Just a few hours before diplomats from Athens and Skopje are due to meet a United Nations mediator in New York for crucial talks aimed at resolving the Macedonia name dispute, Greek Foreign Ministry sources expressed fears that Skopje is likely to reject the new UN proposal outright. The ministry is concerned by reports leaked to the press in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday which suggest that FYROM’s government will reject the latest proposal by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz, provoking a deadlock. According to the leaked reports, Skopje is not keen on any of the five composite names proposed by Nimetz and only agreed to consider them as a basis for further negotiations. According to sources quoted in the reports, FYROM’s negotiator, Nikola Dimitrov, will reject all five names and also rebuff a proposal that the name of Skopje’s «Alexander the Great» airport be changed. Last week FYROM leaders had expressed reservations about the proposal, claiming that it favors Greece, but had also indicated a preference for the name Independent Republic of Macedonia. Greece has opted for Republic of Upper Macedonia – a preference that negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis is to present to Nimetz this morning. Vassilakis is to press for this name to be used in all international organizations and to clarify the terms under which the terms Macedonia and Macedonian can be used by both sides. Later today Nimetz is to have talks with Dimitrov. He is to conclude by briefing each diplomat on the stance of the other side. Prominent politicians yesterday rebuffed calls by the far-right LAOS party for a mass protest rally, saying provocative activities could hamper the process of negotiations. «Rallies do not help Greece or the government as they convey an image of fanaticism and bigotry,» said veteran PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos. The Holy Synod, convening yesterday for the first time under Archbishop Ieronymos, also rebuffed the idea of a mass rally, calling for «unity, consensus, maturity and prudence.» Tensions were high in Skopje on Wednesday night with nine policemen injured following a vehement demonstration outside the Greek liaison office in the FYROM capital.