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News 16 May 12

NATO Doors Remain Closed to Macedonia

NATO and US officials have put an end to Macedonia’s slim hopes that it may get anything more than warm words at the forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago in a few days.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian soldier in Afghanistan | Photo by: morm.gov.mk

Resolving the "name" dispute with Greece remains the condition for Macedonia’s NATO accession, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Radio Free Europe ahead of the summit that starts on May 20-21.

The Alliance's position remains unchanged, he said, and is still based on the decision taken at the 2008 Bucharest summit, when NATO deemed Macedonia ready to join once it concludes the long-standing name dispute with Greece.

"Unfortunately, there has not been progress in this direction. Nevertheless, the decision we took four years ago continues to apply," Rasmussen said.

This sentiment was also clear in the words of the US Assistant Secretary of State, Philip Gordon, who last week told the US Senate that NATO would admit no new members at the forthcoming summit in Chicago.

“In view of Macedonia, the country has met the key membership criteria. The United States remains engaged and supports negotiations aimed at solving the name row [with Greece], led by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz,” Gordon said.

Agreeing that Macedonia should not now nurture big hopes of the summit, Macedonian Deputy Defence Minister Emil Dimitriev said that the latest remarks “will not discourage us from our goal of becoming NATO members because we deserve it”.

Macedonia has been an active participant in several NATO-led missions. The country currently has some 160 troops in the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and has been repeatedly praised for its efforts there.

In 2008 Greece blocked Macedonia’s accession at the Bucharest NATO Summit, saying that its neighbour’s use of the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to its northern province of the same name.

Since then, NATO has repeatedly demanded a solution to the dispute before Macedonia can be invited to join.

Last December, the International Court of Justice, ICJ, ruled that Greece had breached an interim deal brokered by the UN in 1995 when it blocked Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO.

However, the court did not directly order Greece to stop the blockade, as Macedonia had requested.

In a last-ditch attempt to boost its chances in Chicago, using the ruling of the ICJ as its main argument, Macedonia's parliament recently passed a declaration reaffirming the country’s commitment to NATO membership.

However, the UN-led name talks with Greece have not moved forward for over a year. There have been only few meetings between the two parties but they have been viewed as nothing more than exchanges of pleasantries.

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