Athens irked by FYROM name games

Athens has been angered by an assertion by the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), according to which any settlement on the Macedonia name dispute will have to be put to a referendum before being approved, Greek diplomats have told Kathimerini. The statement by FYROM Premier Nikola Gruevski challenges the validity of negotiations being conducted under the mediation of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz with the aim of resolving the dispute, a senior diplomat said. «The basis on which negotiations are taking place has to be clear – the rules cannot keep on changing,» he told Kathimerini. Many are expressing fears that Gruevski’s stance makes it unlikely there will be any progress after parliamentary elections due in FYROM on June 1, let alone before. Gruevski’s ruling party (VMRO-DPMNE) is almost certain to win re-election in the polls. Meanwhile, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza has appealed to both Athens and Skopje to adopt a proactive approach to talks and not «simply wait for Prometheus Nimetz to appear with the fire.» Bryza reportedly reassured Greek diplomats that Gruevski’s statement had been fueled by the pre-election climate in Skopje and should not be taken too seriously in Athens. Nimetz was due to have talks with Greece’s representative in the name talks, Adamantios Vassilakis, in New York yesterday evening. Vassilakis has reportedly been briefed to reiterate Greece’s insistence on a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute. Nimetz, who met FYROM’s representative earlier in the week, is not expected to submit a new proposal for a settlement before FYROM’s June elections. The UN mediator is expected to use the new round of talks as an opportunity to draw up a «road map» to act as a guide for negotiations over the next few weeks. The pace of talks is expected to pick up after elections in FYROM.