NEWS

Nimetz to intensify name talks

United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz yesterday said he planned to crank up the pace of negotiations aimed at breaking the Macedonia name deadlock with the intention of «upgrading» talks to foreign minister level at the next UN general assembly scheduled for September 20. The distance separating Athens and Skopje in talks is still great, Nimetz reportedly told Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis after their talks in Thessaloniki yesterday. In the words of a Greek diplomatic source, «the phase of current negotiations is not dramatically different to that a few months ago.» Still Nimetz stressed that both sides are «serious» about reaching a settlement. Asked by reporters whether talks will include other issues apart from the dispute over the name, Nimetz noted that «a series of issues peripheral to the central issue of the name have been broached.» «The name issue is tough enough – we do not need to weigh it down with other matters,» Nimetz added. The mediator said that the 16-year dispute has been running for long enough and should be resolved. He refused to set a deadline for a compromise, however. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, following talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, yesterday reiterated Greece’s insistence on a «mutually acceptable solution» to the name dispute. Foreign Ministry sources in Athens said the progress of talks leading up to the UN summit in September would largely depend on whether government officials in Skopje drop the intransigence they have displayed since Athens vetoed the neighboring country’s bid to join NATO in April.