Outlook for name talks bleak after Skopje suit

Prospects for a settlement to the Macedonia name dispute looked slim yesterday, as political parties in Athens and Skopje argued about the repercussions of Skopje’s decision to sue Greece for vetoing its bid to join NATO. The United Nations mediator in the name spat, Matthew Nimetz, said yesterday that authorities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were willing to continue negotiations despite filing a complaint on Monday with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing Greece of breaching a United Nations-backed bilateral «interim agreement» aimed at fostering good-neighborly relations. But there were tensions in Skopje and Athens. In Skopje, FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski continued to question the stance of the country’s prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, who instigated the legal suit. «There is no point in foot-dragging because in five years we will have to sit at the same table of negotiations,» Crvenkovski said. In Athens, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis indicated that the legal action had not done Skopje any favors. «This is just another tactic in Gruevski’s attempt to avoid committing to negotiations aimed at solving the name dispute,» she said. Opposition PASOK countered that ruling New Democracy should have predicted Gruevski’s actions and averted them. PASOK’s Andreas Loverdos said that Athens should have been the first to accuse Skopje of violating the interim agreement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos reacted to the criticism by noting that «if Greece had appealed first to The Hague it would be reproached internationally for not wanting progress on name talks.»