Two U.S. Senators block the nomination of the ambassador designate to Skopje. A move is seen as a warning from Greek Lobby, while FYROMʼs leadership speaks about a “Macedonian minority” in Greece
Washington, D.C. By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The nomination process of the ambassador designate to Skopje Philip Reeker was put on hold on Wednesday by two members of the Senate who decided to stay anonymous. The move is seen as a strong message from the Greek Lobby to Bush administration, to change position in the dispute of Greece and FYROM over the name issue, but also be positive in other issues of major concern for the community.
Greek News had pointed out last week that Philip Reekerʼs testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee didnʼt satisfy many of its members. Reeker had said “We do not consider that the dispute between Athens and Skopje over Macedoniaʼs name should have prevented Macedonia from receiving an invitation”. He has also refused to offer his comments on some of the provocations of the leadership of Skopje, such as the renaming of their airport “Alexander the Great”.
The hold placed by the two senators will delay his confirmation for after the 9th of July and possibly after the end of August.
Greek American leaders such as Andy Manatos of the Coordinating Effort of Hellenes, and Tasos Zambas, Alternate president of PSEKA, were working last week informing members of Congress on the issue.
Greek News was unable to receive any official statement on the issue.
“We do not know who has a hold, it is each Senatorʼs purview to decide whether they want to publicize holds” , a senior aide to a U.S. Senator told us.
In the months followed the Greek veto in Bucharest, both the U.S. – Greek relations and the relations between the two foreign ministers remain strained.
“We do want to send a clear message to Bush administration, to change its policy vis-à-vis Greece an Cyprus. We hope the same for the McCain campaign”, a Greek American involved with lobby told Greek News.
Greek American community felt betrayed when President Bush decided to recognize Skopje as the “Republic of Macedonia” four days after the 2004 presidential election.
The UN Spokesman announced that the Secretary General’s personal envoy in talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz, met in Skopje on Friday with the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and other government officials.
It was noted that Nimetz “listened to detailed assessments of their positions and their reactions on the views that he conveyed from Athens,” on the dispute regarding the landlocked republic’s name.
It was added that “no decision has been taken on the next steps at this point” but “this will be arranged soon, possibly next week.”
Nimitz had separate meetings with FYROM Prime-minister and President, Nikola Gruevski and Branko Crvenkovski respectively. After the meetings Mr. Nimitz said that he presented some ideas to the countryʼs leadership which could lead to a solution to the pending name issue. He also announced the continuation of negotiations saying: “I hope we will work hard on the pending name issue this summer and we will see whether there is progress in a few weeks”.
He also expressed satisfaction that both interested sides approach negotiations with particular seriousness. “I can not tell that the gap is closing in, but there is a common belief that it is high time to see what we can do. I believe that there is willingness to reach a solution and overcome existing differences”, UN special envoy added.
Mr. Nimitz appeared to keep distances regarding possibility for the holding of referendum in FYROM regarding whatever possible agreement. “Referendum involves complex procedures. I have a view regarding what is useful or not within this framework, however, any country has the right to handle such issues as it considers appropriate. What matters is to achieve an agreement first”, said Mr. Nimitz.
During the meeting, a protest was taking place outside the Greek Embassy in Skopje, organized by the nationalists.
According to reports of the local media, Prime Minister Gruevski raised with Nimetz the issue of “the violation of human rights of the ethnic Macedonians living in Greece”.
US deputy State undersecretary, Rosmari Di Carlo, was also in Skopje on Friday, and had contacts with the countryʼs leadership and opposition party leaders. In her statements after the meetings, Di Carlo said that top priority issues for the country are: the formation of anew government in order to proceed to reforms necessary towards its Euro-Atlantic course and implementation of Ohrid Agreement as well as the “resolution” of the pending name issue to make feasible its admission to NATO the sooner possible. “It is apparent that there is consent in Macedonia for its admission to NATO, and we will continue supporting the country towards this direction”, added Di Carlo, who refused to make any comments on “timetables” for the resolution of the name issue.
In statements after her meeting in Athens with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz regarding the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said they had had a first exchange of views in light of the changed political framework after the NATO summit in Bucharest and the conclusions of the latest European Council meeting.
“We had a very useful discussion, during which there was a in-depth review and assessment of the political and diplomatic environment that arose after Bucharest, the elections in FYROM and the European Council,” Bakoyannis said.
The foreign minister reaffirmed Greece’s “steadfast and sincere desire to achieve a mutually accepted solution” but stressed that Athens considered that any agreement should be final and conclusive, without exceptions and not open to confusion or doubts about the need to fully adhere to the agreed terms.
Questioned about whether neighbouring FYROM should put the issue of the name to a national referendum, Bakoyannis clarified that Greece was not concerned about the internal procedures followed its northern neighbour but insisted that the final solution be sanctioned by a decision of the UN Security Council that would be “binding without exceptions”.
She said the discussion with Nimetz concerned the issues that fell under his remit, which were finding a mutually acceptable solution the name issue and its implementation, and denied the existence of a July 9 deadline for finding a solution, as Nimetz had done beforehand, while at the same time repeating that Greece would like a solution to be found as quickly as possible.
Asked whether the two sides were any closer to such a solution, she only said that the negotiations were continuing and “going into substantial issues”.
Speaking before Bakoyannis, Nimetz said that he did not see the negotiations ending by a specific deadline at the present time.
“I don’t consider July 9 or any other date significant in these discussions,” he told reporters, answering questions after his meeting with the Greek foreign minister.
He had been asked whether this date was being aimed for so that FYROM could join NATO with Croatia and Albania.
“We wish these issues to proceed at a rapid pace,” he said but stressed that “these are complex issues,” and that he did not see any major developments in the next few days.