Macedonia urged to solve name row with Greece


United Nations, Jan 17 A UN envoy declared today he was "very hopeful" that a solution was within reach to end a 27-year dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the former Yugoslav republic's name.

Stoltenberg met with the Macedonian prime minister and defence minister - as well as the UN's mediator Matthew Nimetz who proposed some alternative names which weren't released to the media. He added that he "truly" believes both governments have genuine intentions to solve it.

U.N. mediator Matthew Nimetz presented new proposals Wednesday to resolve a 25-year-old dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the Balkan nation's name and said he should know within two months whether progress can be made.

"However, the talks' outcome will depend on the readiness of the two sides to compromise", read the government's statement.

"I view this as a good set of ideas, a compromise and a package that both sides should feel comfortable with, and lead to a dignified and satisfactory solution", he said. "That means, of course, resolving the issue of your country's name".

The Macedonian government's offered a measured response when first reacting to the negotiations, saying only that it would "carefully analyse" Nimitz's proposals and continue building wide support for the issue at home.

"But while it is good to be ambitious, it is also important to be realistic", Stoltenberg said in an address to the Macedonian parliament in the capital, Skopje.

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Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece's northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.

Washington's hand has so far been unseen in supporting any deal, and USA officials are doing their best to remain silent, keeping the UN's long-running Nimetz mediation process front and center. He also distanced himself from any stance that his government might have on the matter. His proposals, which have already leaked via Skopje, included five different potential geographic/temporal qualifiers for the parties to potentially agree on and find an acceptable compound name.

Greece blocked Macedonia from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 10 years ago because of the row dating from the 1991-92 breakup of Yugoslavia.

Most countries, including Russian Federation and the United States, recognize the country's constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.

"We are here to send a message to Stoltenberg, that we do not want to change our constitutional name", said Solza Grceva, a former member of Macedonian parliament, said at the protest.

Macedonia is unable to be a member of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation because of the ongoing name dispute with Greece, which has been ongoing for more than 25 years.