Skopje provokes new rift with Athens

A new diplomatic spat between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) opened up yesterday as Athens accused Skopje of a «provocative effort to distort the truth» after four visiting FYROM journalists were temporarily held in custody. FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski expressed in a statement «serious concern» about the incident, and his government made an official complaint to Greek Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou. Skopje said that it would also be informing the European Union about the incident. The four reporters from FYROM were taken into custody as they covered a protest by locals in Florina, northern Greece, who were complaining about the army’s decision to carry out military exercises at a firing range in the area. A number of protesters, as well as the journalists, were removed after allegedly impeding army vehicles. The reporters were released after authorities checked their details and ensured that they had not filmed military installations. FYROM’s actions drew a stinging response from Athens. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos accused Gruevski of engaging in «a provocative effort to blatantly distort the truth» and «a new, unacceptable attempt to intervene in Greek domestic affairs.» Koumoutsakos also accused the FYROM premier of conducting «a conscious policy that cultivates nationalism and bigotry,» before suggesting that Gruevski busy himself with his country’s own affairs. «Mr Gruevski should accept the fact that Greek citizens do not need self-styled advocates, especially those with obvious motives,» he said. «Instead, he should concentrate his efforts on improving what, according to international organizations and observers, is the deteriorating state of democracy in his country.»

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