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Further blow in Macedonia name saga September 22, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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Expectations that the current top level gatherings at the UN General Assembly could produce a break-through in the Greek-Macedonian name dispute were disappointed this weekend.

After meeting Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov in New York late on Sunday (19 September), Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator for the name issue, failed to come forward with a new proposal for the resolution of the 17-year-long dispute. He simply urged both sides to continue bilateral contacts at the highest level.

Zoran Jolevski, Macedonian negotiator (r) and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz

Coming just weeks ahead of a Nato summit and the next annual report by European Commission on Macedonia, Mr Nimetz’s statement left little room for hope that the name issue could be swiftly settled, something that would open the way for Macedonia’s Nato membership and EU accession talks.

“There is an increased sense of confidence that the problem can be resolved with dialogue at very high level between the leadership of the countries,” Mr Nimetz told reporters. He refused to speculate on whether the row could be overcome before the Nato summit in November.

The Macedonian President repeated the position of the government that Macedonia was committed to find a solution.

Mr Nimetz described the contacts between Skopje and Athens as a “very positive development.” They had raised expectations in Macedonia and the EU that the name row was at last headed for disentanglement. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton had both stated the climate was good for a solution and urged Macedonia to solve the problem as soon as possible in order to start membership talks with the EU.

However, the Macedonian and Greek Prime Ministers could not confirm they would meet again during the 65th UN General Assembly as expected. Stevo Pendarovski, a Macedonian political analyst and presidential security adviser, offered a sceptical reading of what Mr Nimetz had to say after his latest effort.

“His statement means that he does not see a role for him in this dispute for the moment. It probably means that the positions of both sides are totally opposed and he does not have any new ideas how to make them come closer.”

Mr Pendarovski has participated in a number of negotiating sessions with Mr Nimetz and confirmed the mediator had never acted so downbeat before.

Athens is asking Skopje to add a geographical determinant to its name Republic of Macedonia fearing that the simple form of the name implies territorial claims against its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

In 2008 Athens blocked Macedonian Nato membership and last December blocked its accession talks with the EU. Greece says it will continue to veto its northern neighbour´s Euro-Atlantic ambitions until a solution for the name issue is found.

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