Vienna (AFP) – Macedonia and Greece are “very dedicated” to resolving their long-running name spat, the UN mediator said Wednesday following talks between the two countries’ foreign ministers in Vienna.
“We discussed the open issues between the parties including the name issue,” Matthew Nimetz said after the talks between Nikos Kotzias of Greece and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov.
“It was an intense discussion, very cordial and… both sides are very dedicated to reaching a solution. The process will continue in the next weeks,” the veteran American diplomat told reporters.
The government of Macedonia, which is formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), is hoping to resolve the dispute this year.
The long-running name dispute between Macedonia and EU-member Greece dates back to 1991 when Skopje declared independence following the collapse of communist Yugoslavia.
Athens objects to Macedonia’s name because it has its own northern province called Macedonia, and fears it may imply territorial ambitions.
The spat has hampered Macedonia’s ambitions to join the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
The negotiations have made progress after Macedonia agreed in February to change the name of the capital’s Alexander the Great airport to Skopje International Airport, in a goodwill gesture to Greece.
The motorway linking Macedonia with Greece was also renamed the Friendship Highway.
Several possible new names have been floated, with Gorna Makedonija or Upper Macedonia the most frequently mentioned.
“I believe that we have never had better circumstances to find a complete solution that will last for centuries and will remain forever,” Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told AFP earlier this month.
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Wednesday that Athens “has advanced to half-way along the bridge and expects FYROM to do the same”.