Name talks to continue on Monday

Diplomats from Athens and Skopje will meet United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz in Vienna on Monday for further talks on the Macedonia name issue, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said yesterday as political instability in Skopje caused consternation among Greek politicians. Bakoyannis was speaking after talks with the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Gruevski, on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Brussels. Unsurprisingly the talks – though «frank and open» – failed to break new ground. «I reiterated Greece’s position and he reiterated his position,» Bakoyannis said, adding however that she remained «optimistic» that a solution would be found before NATO’s summit on April 2-4. Meanwhile diplomats in Athens were bracing for the impact of a political crisis in FYROM, where the government was late yesterday teetering on the brink of collapse after a key ethnic Albanian party threatened to quit the coalition over a minority rights row. FYROM’s President Branko Crvenkovski referred to «a serious political crisis occurring at the worst time for our country.» There are fears that if the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) ends up withdrawing, and a new coalition is not formed, FYROM will face elections and the Macedonia name dispute may be put on the back burner. A caretaker government would probably not receive a mandate to continue talks, sources said. In any case, Foreign Ministry sources said, Greece will not change its stance and will impose its veto on FYROM’s bid to join NATO if the name dispute remains unresolved. There are fears that the US, and other countries, may push Athens to compromise, using the argument that the stability of the Balkans is at stake. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared to anticipate this yesterday in comments he made from Brussels. He said Greece is concerned about stability in the Balkans but that stability was based on good-neighborly ties between countries, a clear snap at FYROM. «This is the European way of behaving, demanded of all countries that aspire to join Euroatlantic institutions,» Karamanlis said.

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