Skopje ups the tension

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were last night involved in yet another effort to solve their name dispute but only after the neighboring country’s prime minister had accused Athens of trying to «blackmail» Skopje over the issue. The comment by Nikola Gruevski came only hours before representatives from both sides were due to meet with the United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz in New York for further discussions aimed at finding some compromise. Nimetz was not due to make any public comments about the meetings until about midnight, Greek time, last night. However, the statement by Gruevski earlier in the day appeared to heighten tension between the two sides ahead of yesterday’s talks. The FYROM prime minister accused Greece of trying to get the result it wants from the negotiations by threatening to block Skopje’s bid to join NATO at a summit that begins in Bucharest on April 2. «The situation now is that Greece intends to use its veto if we do not accept its blackmail,» said Gruevski. «We cannot accept blackmail.» He added that FYROM could break off talks with Greece if Athens decides to use its veto. «From what I can see now, I cannot be much of an optimist. In case of a veto from Greece, the negotiations will enter such deep crisis that perhaps they will be stopped.» The response from Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was immediate. «Mr Gruevski’s comments, just a few hours before today’s crucial meeting within the UN framework, do not help the whole effort as they predict a negative outcome. «We believe in this process and will not follow this line of thinking.» Bakoyannis indicated that time was running out for finding a solution to the dispute before the NATO summit but that a «consensual, practical and enforceable» compromise could be reached.

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