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The US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Michael Hammer, on Friday urged Macedonia and Greece to step up activities leading to a solution to the long-standing 'name' dispute.
"The United States would like to see the issue resolved so that Macedonia joins NATO as soon as possible. Again, we encourage both sides to solve the issue," Hammer said.
Greece and Macedonia remain at odds in a long-standing dispute over Macedonia's name.
Citing the unresolved issue, Greece has repeatedly blocked Macedonia’s progress towards both EU and NATO membership.
"We support UN efforts to find a solution to the Macedonia-Greece issue,” Hammer said, adding that UN mediator Matthew Nimetz "is working on the issue's settlement”, which would “hopefully come very soon”.
Greece insists that use of the term "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name. Macedonia on the other hand sees the pressure to change its name as a threat to its national identity.
The US remarks come after the European Commission this week in its annual progress report on Macedonia for the fourth year in a row recommended a start of to EU accession talks.
But the European Union has so far not offered an actual start date for the talks owing to the Greek blockade related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Speaking about the Balkans in general, Hammer said that the US supported the whole region's Euro-Atlantic Integration process.
Macedonia says it will carefully consider the proposed bilateral memorandum of understanding that the Greek Foreign Minister sent on Thursday to his Macedonian counterpart.
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