Athens yesterday welcomed as «a very good basis for negotiations» a much-awaited proposal by the United Nations mediator in the Macedonia name dispute, Matthew Nimetz. Nimetz’s proposal of Republic of Northern Macedonia as an official name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia received a positive, though somewhat cautious, reception from Greek and FYROM diplomats attending talks in New York. Greek Foreign Ministry sources told Kathimerini that Nimetz’s proposal «needed improvements in certain areas.» It is thought that Greek reservations might center on Nimetz’s failure to take a clear stance on the matter of a supposed Macedonian ethnic identity that Skopje has been trying to introduce into talks. The initial response from FYROM envoys attending talks in New York appeared relatively positive. They said the proposal was «somewhat improved» and «more specific than ever.» As regards the sensitive issue of ethnic identity, Nimetz reportedly offered three possible solutions, in an effort to satisfy the expectations of both sides. Regarding the passports of FYROM citizens – another area of dispute – Nimetz’s proposal reportedly envisages them bearing the proposed name Republic of Northern Macedonia, in English, as well as FYROM’s «constitutional» name – Republic of Macedonia – in Latin and in Cyrillic characters. Following the talks, Nimetz said he expected an official response to his proposal from Athens and Skopje within two weeks, stressing however that there is no deadline for a solution. There was no official response to the proposal from Athens yesterday but Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said the government was «assessing the new ideas extremely carefully and with a constructive outlook.» In a related development yesterday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged FYROM to resolve the name dispute so that it can join NATO. «There is only one path to membership of NATO and that is the unanimous consent of all the existing members of the alliance,» Gates said after talks with FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and President Branko Crvenkovski on the sidelines of an annual regional defense ministers’ meeting in the southern resort of Ohrid.