FYROM tensions simmer

With just a couple of days to go before a United Nations mediator visits the region for further talks on the Macedonia name dispute, Skopje’s ambassador yesterday reviled Athens for its stance in negotiations so far. Addressing a conference in Athens on defense and security in the Balkans, Blagoja Handziski said he had been «insulted» by his invitation to the event, which had referred to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) rather than stating the constitutional name FYROM insists on using: Republic of Macedonia. Handziski charged that the settlement Greece is seeking would mean FYROM abandoning its national identity. The official claimed that a change of national identity in FYROM would provoke domestic, and possibly regional, instability, as the country prepares for early elections in June. Responding to Handziski, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos stressed that FYROM must display respect for the principles of good relations to join NATO or any other alliance. «Over and above any technical criteria, there is a political condition: A candidate country cannot have unresolved issues with a member state of the organization it seeks to join,» he said. Earlier Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had told the same conference, «Honest cooperative relationships are inconceivable without good-neighborly relations.» US Embassy official Thomas Countryman, also at the congress, said Washington may have been disappointed but was not angered by the fact that FYROM did not get an invitation to join NATO. Meanwhile in Washington, FYROM Vice President Zoran Stavreski met US Deputy Secretary of State for Europe Rosemary DiCarlo who, he said, said the US would support Skopje’s efforts to find a solution to the name dispute.

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