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article imageAthens, Skopje mayors call for deal on Macedonia name row

By AFP     Feb 9, 2018 in World

The mayors of Greece and Macedonia's capitals met in Athens on Friday to call for a bilateral settlement to end a long-running row over Macedonia's name.

"We agree on the necessity of reaching a just and lasting settlement," said Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis after meeting his Skopje counterpart Petre Shilegov at the Greek capital's city hall.

The meeting took place after a mass rally in Athens on Sunday by protesters urging the Greek government not to compromise as it attempts to broker a deal in the 27-year-old dispute.

Athens argues that its neighbour's use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece's historic northern region of the same name going back to when Alexander the Great ruled in the fourth century BC.

Shilegov said there is a "strong shared will to reinforce the bonds of friendship" between the two capitals.

A map showing the Greek province of Macedonia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
A map showing the Greek province of Macedonia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Kun TIAN, AFP/File

"We are not the ones negotiating," said Kaminis, but "we expect our government to act to put forward what unites our two countries".

The two mayors announced they were in favour of a "viable solution" over the row in a joint article published Thursday in both the Greek newspaper Ta Nea and Macedonian daily Sloboden Pecat.

On Tuesday, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said his country was ready to make a concession over its name by adding an extra geographic designation.

Macedonian media have speculated about several such options, including Upper Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia, Macedonia-Skopje or New Macedonia.

However this solution has been met with strong opposition from nationalists in both countries.

The dispute has remained unresolved since the former Yugoslav republic's independence in 1991.

Because of Greece's objections, Macedonia in 1993 joined the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

A resolution of the name issue is needed before Macedonia, home to some 2.2 million people, can join NATO or the European Union.

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