NEWS

FYROM talks this week

As diplomats in Athens and Skopje brace for a new round of United Nations-mediated talks on the Macedonia name dispute, sources say the Greek government now prefers the composite name New Macedonia rather than Upper Macedonia which it had favored for its «geographical qualifier.» The change of tune in Athens, the same sources say, has been influenced by a report by eminent Greek academics citing extracts from the writings of ancient scholars Herodotus and Thucydides – and from the speeches of ancient Greek warrior Alexander the Great – which refer to Upper Macedonia. The Upper Macedonia mentioned in these texts corresponds to four Greek prefectures, the report says, and so could fuel irredentism. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis did not mention any change in strategy on the Macedonia name issue on Saturday during a speech before New Democracy’s central committee. However he did reiterate his appeal to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to return to the negotiating table. Meanwhile FYROM legislators voted to dissolve parliament, clearing the way for early elections on June 1. The move was anticipated following a heightening of domestic tensions in the wake of the country’s NATO membership bid rejection. Government officials in Skopje have not responded to the new overture from Athens for fresh talks. Nevertheless UN mediator Matthew Nimetz is due in Skopje on Thursday and Athens on Friday for talks with diplomats. Further talks are due in New York the following week. But it is unclear how much influence Nimetz will have in pushing the name talks forward. In the weeks leading to the NATO summit early this month he took a back seat as US officials attempted to mediate the talks. One senior diplomat told Kathimerini that this may happen again. But this may not be a bad thing for Athens, he said, as Washington is keen to overcome all obstacles keeping FYROM out of the NATO fold and may accelerate the process.