United Nations.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
Internal disputes in the government of FYROM have delayed an expected phone telephone conversation between Prime Minister Zoran Zaen and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras that would have marked the agreement. Diplomatic sources in Skopje claimed that Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov is still opposing the terms of the agreement he made with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Brussels.
The two countries have been locked in negotiations over the past year and are trying to reach a deal in the coming weeks, in time for an EU summit in late June and a NATO summit in mid-July.
Greek Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos expressed optimism over a successful outcome in the negotiations for the FYROM name issue in an interview with the Sunday newspaper Nea Selida. He also noted that Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have taken all the necessary precautions in order all commitments, on FYROM’s part, to be met.
Minister Olga Gerovasili said in an interview that the “resolution of the name issue and the total normalisation of the bilateral relations with the neighbouring country will bring only benefits for the country and for northern Greece. We must escape the fears and the ghosts of the past and see our future dynamically. This is a common target that should concern any responsible and mature political force” she added and urged all the political parties to assume their responsibilities towards the Greek people and towards history”.
The government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) said on Saturday it is important to find a “substantial” and “mutually acceptable” solution on the long-running name dispute with Greece and reiterated its commitment in the diplomatic process.
“FYROM’s government remains committed to finding a solution that will protect and strengthen the dignity and identity of [its] citizens,” a government official said, according to MIA news agency.
“Reaching a substantial, mutually acceptable solution is of paramount importance. The developed friendship between the two countries is a page investment in the future,” the official added and rejected speculation in the media about the state of the ongoing talks with Greece.
FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev insisted on Thursday that even though he is “optimistic” there is still enough time for a deal before the European Council on June 28-29.
“Although it is not easy, it is a very sensitive issue,” he said, adding that it is “very important to find a sustainable and permanent solution that would be 100 percent safe for future generations.”
Zaev reportedly said that he would like to speak with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras on the phone on Friday, noting however that there is still time before the European Council.
“Maybe we are going to call Athens and it might happen very soon. I won’t comment on anything else since everything was said in the Foreign Ministry statement,” he was quoted as saying.
His remarks were preceded earlier in the day by a statement by FYROM’s Foreign Ministry that hinted there could more delays before a final deal is reached.
“The quality of the text of the agreement and the need to reach a lasting and sustainable solution acceptable to both sides by far outweigh the necessity of meeting any deadlines for the finalization of the process,” it said.
Government and diplomatic sources in Athens accused Skopje of trying to mask domestic opposition to a deal by shifting the blame for the delays to Athens.
The Greek prime minister’s office insists that the ball remains in Skopje’s court and that Zaev must resolve problems on the domestic front before he can commit to the next step in the quest for a final deal.
The conclusion of negotiations between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is being held up by disagreements over the “interpretation” of the legal documents and not over principle, according to senior ranking officials in Skopje.
However, both sides have signaled they expect a deal in coming days, even though Athens drew a distinction, albeit via a leak, between FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as someone conducive to a deal and his foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, as someone prone to raising obstacles.
The expectations emanating from Skopje were indicated in remarks by FYROM’s Deputy Premier Bujar Osmani, who said Friday that both sides may have differences in approach but not enough to lead to a collapse of talks.
“I think these are last steps of a marathon that has lasted for 35 years. Usually, the final meters are the most crucial and determine either a positive or negative direction,” he said, insisting that now is an ideal time for a deal that will pave the way for his country’s induction into NATO and the beginning of its EU accession talks.
FYROM’s Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska said Friday that her country has made strides in the process to incorporate itself in the structures of NATO and that it deserves to join. Skopje’s only remaining bilateral difference, she said, is the dispute with Greece.
However, not everyone in Skopje is on board for a deal given the objections voiced by a wing of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party which claims that the Zaev government is ready to sign a bad deal.
Former ambassador Risto Nikovski, a backer of Slavo-Macedonian irredentism, denounced Zaev in a newspaper article for accepting the Greek demand that any name agreed to will be used erga omnes – nationally and internationally.
US AND EU
The U.S Department of State reiterated its constant support for the talks on Thursday, while encouraging the leaders of the two countries to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
Responding to a question from the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), a State Department of State official reiterated Washington’s standing position on the FYROM name issue.
The United States continue to support the ongoing talks under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve the issue of FYROM’s name, it said and added: We encourage the leaders of FYROM and Greece to find a mutually acceptable solution in the interests of Euro-Atlantic integration, economic prosperity, peace and security in the region.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, met with FYROM Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bujar Osmani on Thursday and discussed progress on the negotiations with Greece over the name issue.
According to a press statement, Mogherini expressed the EU’s full support for the ongoing talks on the issue and conveyed the readiness of the Commission to support a possible resolution.
The EU and FYROM officials also discussed the progress on the country’s reform agenda.