United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Hopes for a compromised settlement in the name dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are evaporating, after Greece rejected the latest proposal put forward by UN special negotiator Matthew Nimetz. The former US diplomat and government official offered the name is “Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)”.
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held a telephone conversation with U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday, during which she made it clear that Greece is left with no other option than to deny the inclusion of FYROM in the NATO candidates list. Following that decision, U.S. administration decided to continue the efforts even during the NATO Summit, but mostly is getting ready for alternatives that will keep Skopjeʼs NATO aspirations alive. Given Athensʼ denial to grant FYROM a conditional invitation, the best option is a statement that will state that the only obstacle to this countryʼs candidacy is its dispute with Greece.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mat Bryza said on Saturday, that the conversation between the two foreign ministers “was serious and focused. We continue to support Amb Nimetz’s efforts to reach a negotiated agreement. Our wish is that Skopje’s path toward NATO not be blocked.”
Diplomatic sources expect pressure on Greece to increase during the Summit. They even not exclude last minute negotiating efforts by U.S. officials.
According to Nimetzʼs proposal, the name in English transcription would be used for international use, whereas the constitutional name (Republic of Macedonia in Slavic transcription) for internal use. The countries that have recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name would be urged, without obliging them, to use the new name. Adjective “Macedonian” could be used by both countries without any limitations.
Although Ambassador Nimetz characterized his proposal “a fair compromise”, Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesman rejected the proposal in less than an hour after it was received.
In a statement about the conversation between Rice and Bakoyiannis, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said, the conversation was held at Rice’s initiative and it concerned “the issue of the ongoing effort for the finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of FYROM’s name.”
Koumoutsakos also spoke of an “open and sincere discussion in which the foreign minister had the opportunity of making an analytical presentation of Greek positions, just like she had presented them in the Greek Parliament yesterday.”
Asked about her telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bakoyannis said she merely reiterated Greece’s positions regarding stability and development in the Balkans.
“(Greece) … desires, however, that this development and stability come on top of proper foundations. And a proper foundation is solution of long-standing problems, one of which, of course, is the (FYROM) ‘name issue’, over which we are in negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in the UN framework.”
In commenting on next week’s Bucharest NATO summit, the Greek FM said the goal is not “expansion for expansion’s sake … the goal is for NATO expansion leading to relations between allies, ones built on the principles we all believe in.”
Asked if there was still enough time to find a mutually acceptable solution to the nagging “name issue”, Bakoyannis reminded that there are “two to three days before the (NATO) summit, but we will continue with negotiations … problems of the past should not get in the way of relations enjoyed by allies, which must be based on very strong foundations. We will continue negotiations until a mutually acceptable solution is found.”
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reiterated on Friday night that Greece will not consent to an invitation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for NATO entrance, unless a mutually acceptable solution to the land locked republic’s name issue.
“Only a mutually acceptable solution, ratified by the UN Security Council, that is, a cohesive and global solution, with sufficient guaranties for its implementation, can be the basis for building relations of alliance and relations of solidarity,” Karamanlis told Parliament during a debate on a censure motion against his government tabled by the main opposition PASOK party.
“If not,” the premier cautioned, “it is crystal clear that, at this stage of the lengthy and ongoing negotiation, we will not reach a solution. And no solution means no invitation.”
Terming as “disappointing” the fact that “even now, at this crucial moment of the negotiations on the name of FYROM, the leadership of the neighbouring country steadfastly demonstrates a negative and unproductive behaviour,” Karamanlis nevertheless reiterated that Greece would continue participating in the UN-sponsored negotiating process “with moderation and determination”.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday, referring to the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYROM) name, that “the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, conveyed to both sides the same message during the private discussions that she had with her counterparts from Greece and FYROM,” adding that the message was “we encourage you to use the (UN special mediator on the issue Matthew) Nimetz process to solve your differences on this issue.”
Replying to relevant questions, McCormack further said that “NATO will state its case on the issue of new members at the Bucharest summit. It is evidently a crucial issue because ‘Macedonia’ has submitted an accession application to NATO and because NATO is an organisation that functions on the basis of unanimity, and of which Greece is a member, a unanimous decision is necessary for ‘Macedonia’ to receive an accession invitation and to be able to accept it. There is an issue which is pending and which concerns the name. For this reason, we have encouraged ‘Macedonia’ and Greece to use the good services of Mr. Nimetz to reach a mutually acceptable solution to this longstanding, difficult and emotionally charged issue for both sides.”
The American official noted that since the issue concerns the alliance in general, “we think that it is important that this bilateral issue is solved.”
Lastly, as regards the recognition of FYROM by the United States, the State Department spokesman said “we have taken our decisions. Every country will take its decision in relation to with which name it recognises ‘Macedonia’. Some have taken a different decision from us, and we understand this.”