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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday vowed to personally contact the authorities in Athens in the hope of speeding up the stalled Greece-Macedonia “name” talks.
Ban Ki-moon and Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski | Photo by: AP/Boris Grdanoski
“I will personally try to contact [Greek] Prime Minister [Antonis] Samaras in order to help in the acceleration of the process,” Ki-moon said in Skopje.
As part of his visit to the country, the UN chief met Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski.
Immediately after the two-day visit, Ki-moon’s special envoy in the UN-led "name" talks, Matthew Nimetz, who was also in Skopje, travels to Thessaloniki, Greece to brief authorities there on the talks held in Macedonia.
Observers hope that this will prompt a fresh diplomatic initiative over the long-standing issue although few expect a rapid breakthrough.
“It is unfortunate that two neighbouring countries have not managed to fully use their potentials for regional cooperation, reconciliation and development. The UN will do everything in its power to facilitate the process. This is a long-standing problem," the UN chief noted.
"We are aware of the International Court of Justice, ICJ ruling and will take into account all aspects," Ban Ki-moon added.
Last December, the ICJ declared that Greece had broken a 1995 UN agreement by blocking Macedonia's membership of NATO. Athens did not change course following the ruling however.
Greece insists that use of the term "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.
Citing the unresolved issue, Greece has repeatedly blocked Macedonia’s progress towards both EU and NATO membership.
UN-brokered talks to overcome the dispute have failed to result in a solution and there have been no substantial talks for over a year, partly owing to the complicated political situation in Greece.
During the visit, Macedonian leaders reiterated that they want a swift solution to the two-decades-long dispute and would appreciate more engagement from Greece.
"The other side should demonstrate constructiveness and political will for a mutually acceptable solution” - and should abide by the ICJ ruling - President Ivanov said.
PM Gruevski told Ki-moon that "the country is ready for intensified talks with Greece".
As part of his tour of the region the UN Secretary General visited Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo. After wrapping up his stay in Macedonia, Ki-Moon heads for Bosnia and Herzegovina, his last stop.
Athens has yet to respond to Macedonia's request for intensified bilateral cooperation and a declaration of friendship.
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