UN Secretary General’s personal envoy on the dispute over the name of Skopje, Matthew Nimetz expressed on Friday optimism after talks between Greece and FYROM in Vienna that progress had been made on all fronts. But, he conceded, difficult issues remained and talks with Greek and FYROM officials would continue. He was speaking to the press after the meetings between the foreign ministers and those of experts’ committees that followed. The meetings were held at the Austrian foreign ministry and lasted for over six hours.
In his brief statements, the UN’s long-term special envoy on the name issue noted, “I can say that, without getting into any details, difficult issues were addressed – they’re still on – difficult issues were resolved, and in my opinion, having been at this a very long time, there is a very positive feeling (as) both ministers are focused on stability in the region, on the importance of good relations between the two countries, and I’m hopeful that we can continue to work in a very positive way.”
Greece’s foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, told reporters the two sides had identified the main issues dividing them.
“I hope that at our next meeting we will be ready to take a big step,” he said.
Both countries have said they would be ready to accept a compound name with a geographical qualifier such as “Northern” or “Upper Macedonia”, but they have yet to agree if that would require a change to FYROM’s constitution and to what extent.
A solution would pave FYROM’s way towards NATO and EU membership, both of which have been blocked by Athens.
FYROM’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov was quoted as saying by state news agency MIA that there had been “conditional progress in the negotiations.”
“It is not surprising that the more openly and more concretely we walk towards a solution, the more the difficulties come to light,” he said.
Following the progress achieved in Vienna on the “Macedonia” name issue, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov, are to take stock before further negotiations after Greek Easter.
Although positive signals emerged from the talks in Austria, differences remain. Athens wants the name solution to be “erga omnes,” meaning that it would be for general use, at home and abroad. It also wants changes to parts of FYROM’s constitution deemed irredentist.
Kotzias is to brief party leaders this week on his talks in Vienna in a bid to secure opposition support amid continuing objections by the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) to the use of the term “Macedonia” in a name solution.
The main conservative opposition New Democracy has called on Kotzias to brief ANEL leader Panos Kammenos first.
In an interview for “VICE”, US Ambassador in Athens Geoffrey Pyatt expressed hope Greece and FYROM will reach a solution on the long-running name dispute, saying it would be a breakthrough, if achieved.
“We’ve had some senior US visitors who have been here recently and have heard a very clear message from the government in terms of how the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister [Nikos] Kotzias and his team are working on this. Ultimately any durable solution is the one that is going to be agreed between the two prime ministers. There’s not a lot of external influence that is going to change that, one way of another,” he said.
“What’s very clear to me is that if you can get this breakthrough, and it would be a real breakthrough, it would be very good for Greece. Just as it would be very good for Skopje. So we are going to continue to be friends of the process we’re supporting Matthew Nimetz. I think we’re going to continue to follow it very closely […] with a real sense that the two sides have come further over the past few months than they have even come before.”