Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece and Ambassador Zoran Jolevski of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia met at the initiative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Envoy Matthew Nimetz.
Today’s encounter was considered an exploratory meeting as it was the first with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s new negotiator. The parties spoke about major issues and how progress could be made. Mr. Nimetz stressed the need to create a positive atmosphere and to avoid creating irritations between the parties. The two sides decided to meet again on a date yet to be agreed. No new proposals were aired during today’s meeting.
The meeting was the first since the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia instituted proceedings against Greece in November at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, alleging that Greece blocked its application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in violation of an agreement between the two countries.
When their representatives last met in New York in October, Mr. Nimetz presented a new set of ideas to both sides for their consideration. In the past, the Special Envoy has proposed several compromise names but the two sides remain far apart on what they consider to be a satisfactory name for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Interim Accord of 13 September 1995, which was brokered by the UN, details the difference between the two countries on the issue. It also obliges the two sides to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach agreement.
Name Deal Depends on Greece Too- Macedonia
Macedonia is ready to look for a solution to the “name” row with Greece, but cannot accept Athens calling all the shots and not compromising, Macedonia’s President Branko Crvenkovski said on Tuesday.
Crvenkovski spoke during a visit to the Bulgarian capital Sofia, a day before a fresh round of UN sponsored talks between the two countries is due to take place in New York after several months on hiatus.
"The name dispute is the sole obstacle to Macedonia's accession into NATO and the EU. If Macedonia wants to become a member of the Euro-Atlantic community, it's logical that it has to find a compromise with Greece”, Crvenkovski said. “It's up to Greece as well, because it takes two to make a compromise”, he said as quoted by the Makfax news agency.
Dnevnik daily cited unnamed Macedonian diplomats as saying they expected nothing new from the talks except a technical meeting to determine the future course of negotiations. They expect both sides to stick to their previous positions at least until fall, due to the local and presidential polls in Macedonia slated for March and the European Parliament elections in Greece set for June.
Skopje is expected to continue insisting on the so called double name formula including one name for international use and another for bilateral relations with Athens. Greece on the other hand wants Macedonia to change its name and use the new name everywhere, arguing that the use of 'Macedonia' implies territorial claims over its own northern province that is called the same.
Relations between the two neighbours reached a low recently since last April, when Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO accession pending a solution to the row, then threatened to do the same in the EU, while in November Macedonia took Greece to the International Court of Justice in Hague over the NATO blockade. Observers feared this could practically freeze if not completely end the UN talks since the focus will be shifted on the suit instead.
Meanwhile Greek daily Kathimerini in a comment piece yesterday saying that the fresh round of talks marks a new era in the dispute. With George. W. Bush’s presidency over, Macedonia lost its biggest supporter on the international scene, the daily added.