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News 30 Sep 13

UN Chief Offers Help in Macedonia 'Name' Dispute

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has offered to help stage high-level talks between Macedonia and Greece aimed at resolving their differences, Macedonia's Prime Minister said.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Photo by: MIA

“For the first time in our talks Ban Ki-moon expressed his preparedness to be personally engaged in the talks by organising a high-level meeting,” Macedonian premier Nikola Gruevski told media after meeting Ban Ki-Moon on Saturday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“I welcomed this and told him that we are prepared,” Gruevski said.

“If it happens and if the other side accepts the invitation, this would be a new moment,” he added.

During his stay in New York, where he also addressed the UN General Assembly on Friday, Gruevski reiterated his stace that Greece is attempting to avoid a solution to the long-standing dispute that has been blocking Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession bids.

It is unclear whether the latest bid to raise the level of the talks, which usually take place between envoys from both sides and not between the two prime ministers, would change anything in the format of the already-announced UN-sponsored negotiations.

Last week, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Martin Nesirsky, confirmed that the UN envoy in the dispute, Mathew Nimetz, plans to convene representatives of the two countries in the coming weeks.

The meeting is a continuation of the talks that took place earlier this month when Nimetz visited Athens and Skopje and met top government officials.

Nimetz declined to divulge the latest suggested compromise formula that he discussed with the leaders, but reports have indicated that the proposed name he put forward was ‘Upper Republic of Macedonia’. He warned however that “substantial differences” remained between both sides.

Macedonia obtained EU candidate status back in December 2005, and European Commission reports have recommended a start to membership talks each year since 2009.

But the country has never been offered a date for EU accession talks, nor an invitation to join NATO, owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over its name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

The new UN-sponsored talks will take place ahead of a European Council meeting in December, when EU enlargement and Macedonia's accession process will again be discussed.

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