NEWS

Skopje rebuffs proposal

Diplomats in Athens were reassessing the state of play yesterday after the president of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski appeared to reject a new proposal by the United Nations mediator in the Macedonia name dispute. «The initial conclusion is that without serious changes, this set of ideas could not serve as a basis for further negotiations and resolution of the dispute,» Crvenkovski said. The suggestion by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz that FYROM henceforth be known as the Republic of Northern Macedonia had been cautiously welcomed by Athens earlier this week as «a very good basis for negotiations» although it «needed improvements in certain areas.» FYROM envoys attending UN-mediated talks in New York had also seemed upbeat, saying the proposal was «improved» and «more specific than ever.» But the critical assessment delivered yesterday by Crvenkovski disappointed diplomats in Greece, not least because the president has had a relatively moderate stance compared to FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. According to sources, Greek government officials are debating their strategy but will await further comments expected to be made by political leaders in FYROM over the next few days. Top diplomats in Athens put on a brave face. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis briefed all opposition party leaders on developments in the name talks yesterday, stressing the need for «a united national front» on the name dispute.Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said that Nimetz’s proposal could lead to a compromise, provided that the still hazy issue of ethnic identity is cleared up. Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said the proposal was «a step toward a solution.» The strongest criticism came from the main opposition PASOK. It rejected the proposal, noting that the government’s slim parliamentary majority does not allow it to take a bold approach in name talks.