NEWS

Athens talks tough on FYROM

Athens upped the stakes yesterday in its name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) when Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis suggested that any solution would rest on a composite name with a geographical qualifier. Karamanlis was speaking after discussing the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias on the sidelines of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels. The prime minister’s assertion also seems to put a damper on suggestions that Athens was ready to accept the «Republic of New Macedonia» as a solution. Greece is known to favor the «Republic of Upper Macedonia» as its preferred solution. Karamanlis said a composite name, for use in all of Skopje’s relations, with a geographical qualifier would be a «clear and practical» solution. Negotiators from Greece and FYROM are due to meet in Vienna on Monday under the guidance of United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz as pressure builds ahead of the NATO summit due to start on April 2, when Skopje’s hopes of joining the alliance will be discussed. Karamanlis insisted yesterday that Greece would stick to its line of vetoing FYROM’s bid unless the name dispute is resolved. «No solution means no invitation, in other words, no accession to NATO,» he said. The prime minister was speaking as the government in Skopje was locked in talks in a bid to prevent its collapse after an ethnic Albanian party walked out of the coalition on Thursday. This left Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s coalition with only 57 of the 120 seats in the FYROM parliament. Karamanlis said he hoped the political crisis in Skopje would not be used as an excuse to drag out the name dispute. «We would like to believe and we hope that the political developments in the neighboring country will not be used either as an excuse or an alibi for perpetuating a 17-year deadlock through a false, compromise settlement.»