NEWS

Athens has few options left on name

Athens saw its diplomatic options dwindle last night as Skopje indicated that it may accept the latest United Nations proposal for a solution to the Macedonia name dispute – which Greece has rebuffed – and Washington pushed for a settlement before a NATO summit starting next Wednesday. The foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Antonio Milososki, declined to confirm that his government had accepted the latest name proposed by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, saying that Skopje’s parliament would discuss the proposal on Monday. But he indicated a willingness to accept the new name: Republic of Macedonia (Skopje). «After 15 years of talks, we think that this proposal is final in this process,» he said. Meanwhile, sources told Kathimerini that Nimetz may make yet another proposal, more closely tailored to Greece’s preference for a name, such as Upper or New Macedonia. Greece’s Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who is due to meet with Milososki on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Slovenia today, did not comment publicly on the shift in Skopje’s stance. But diplomatic sources said the ministry has been riled by comments made by Milososki in an interview with US magazine Newsweek in which he criticizes Greece for neglecting the rights of its «Macedonian minority.» Greek diplomats have also been irked by growing pressure from Washington for a swift solution to the name dispute. US President George W. Bush yesterday reiterated his support for FYROM’s NATO accession. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said «the entry of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia into NATO would be a stabilizing factor in the Balkans,» adding that «it would be a pity if something that has to do with antiquity were to get in the way of… a very important step for Macedonia and for NATO.» Greek diplomats say it would be preferable if name negotiations do not continue during NATO’s summit in Bucharest next week. But if a solution is not found by Tuesday, it is thought that Greek diplomats will face last-minute pressure over dinner with NATO leaders on Wednesday night.