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NATO chief says Macedonia talks to start once name dispute ends November 3, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (L) attends a news conference after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas in Athens, Greece, October 21, 2010. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

Deliberations on Macedonia’s membership in NATO can start once its name dispute with Greece is resolved, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday during a one-day visit here.

“NATO’s decision is clear and all of our decisions require unanimity. I urge all sides to do whatever possible to reach a solution as soon as possible,” Rasmussen said after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on issues that included NATO’s new strategic doctrine.

Ahead of the Lisbon summit on Nov. 19, Rasmussen held a series of talks with Greek officials, including Prime Minister George Papandreou and Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on the doctrine issue, as well as proposals for cutbacks on the expenses of NATO’s structure and personnel.

According to Greek media reports, Rasmussen promoted the idea of reducing NATO staff to 9,000 from the current 13,000 and regional headquarters — among them one in the central Greek city of Larissa — from the current 11 to seven.

While Rasmussen held meetings with Greek officials, a small group of protesters planned a demonstration in front of the Greek parliament, chanting slogans against NATO’s military interventions.

Macedonia and Greece are locked in a 19-year-long dispute over the use of the name of Macedonia.

Athens insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims against its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

In December last year, the EU postponed the decision to grant Skopje the much desired date for start of its accession talks due to the unresolved name issue.

In 2008 Greece also blocked Macedonia from entering NATO over the same dispute.

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