Name talks still ‘alive’

Negotiations aimed at solving the Macedonia name dispute are still «alive» and «healthy» but should not be shackled by deadlines, the United Nations mediator in the dispute, Matthew Nimetz, said yesterday after talks with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Athens. Nimetz, who traveled to Athens from Skopje where he had talks with the political leadership there, said it was positive that both sides are willing to continue with talks but would not divulge any details about what was discussed in the two capitals. He simply remarked that diplomats from both sides had outlined their reactions to his earlier proposals. «I did not make any new proposals or repeat any old proposals,» he said. He conceded that the five composite names he proposed in February might not lead to a solution although he expressed hope that they would. The envoy also remarked that he has acquired «a better understanding of the objections of both sides» following developments at the NATO summit earlier this month where Athens vetoed Skopje’s bid to join the alliance. Asked by reporters about the likely impact of talks on current political instability in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which is preparing for early elections on June 1, Nimetz said that the pre-election climate posed a «barrier» but was not a reason for negotiations to be halted. Despite speculation about the resumption of negotiations between Greek and FYROM representatives in New York next week, Nimetz avoided specifying the date or venue for the next round of talks. He said also that the June polls should not be seen as a deadline for a solution, noting that even July might be too early for a settlement. Bakoyannis heralded the relaunch of talks which Athens had sought since the NATO summit. «Greece’s steady position is for the continuation of negotiations and the resolution of this problem as soon as possible,» she said. Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos played down an official complaint lodged by FYROM’s leadership with Greece’s liaison office in Skopje. The complaint was in response to Greece’s «stance» at the NATO summit. «This complaint was lodged a full 15 days after (the summit) and just a few days after (FYROM) called early elections,» Koumoutsakos noted.

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