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News 17 Nov 17

UN Mediator Schedules New Macedonia ‘Name’ Talks

The long-expected re-boot of the UN-sponsored name talks between Macedonia and Greece will take place on December 11-12 in Brussels.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
UN 'name' dispute mediator Matthew Nimetz on a previous visit to Skopje. Archive photo: MIA.

The UN mediator in the dispute over Macedonia's name, US diplomat Matthew Nimetz, has set a date for a fresh round of talks on the issue, which is holding up Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, for December 11-12 in Brussels.

“The meeting is part of the United Nations’ efforts to assist the sides in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue,” the UN statement reads.

Amid a recent warming of relations between Athens and Skopje, the re-start of the name talks was originally expected to start next week but is now rescheduled for December.

The fresh round of talks comes as optimism in both countries grows for a settlement of the decades-old problem that has held up Macedonia’s aspiration to join NATO and the EU.

The dispute centres on Greece's insistence that use of the word "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

In 2008, Macedonia narrowly missed the chance to enter NATO solely because of the name dispute with Greece.

NATO at the time said that Macedonia would be able to join the alliance the moment it solved the bilateral dispute. Macedonia cannot start EU accession talks for the same reason.

Since the new Social Democrat-led government took power in Macedonia in May, both sides have stepped up bilateral communications and pledged to revive the UN-sponsored talks.

Both sides have expressed hope also that they will be able to agree on a mutually acceptable name by the middle of next year.

The UN-sponsored talks have effectively been frozen since 2014, partly owing to the political crisis that engulfed Macedonia in 2015 and ended only recently, with the election of a new government under Zoran Zaev.

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