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article imageAthens wants 'untranslatable' name for Macedonia

By AFP     Jan 30, 2018 in World

Greece said on Tuesday it wanted Macedonia to adopt an "untranslatable" name in order to settle a long-running dispute between the two countries.

Greece considers the name "Macedonia" to be part of its own cultural heritage -- it is also the name of a Greek province considered to be the centre of the ancient empire of Alexander the Great.

The Greek government fears that the use of the name by its neighbour implies a claim to parts of its own territory.

A fresh effort to solve the dispute, which has remained unresolved since Macedonia's independence in 1991, is being led by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.

"The first thing to discuss is a name in the language or languages of the neighbouring country which cannot be translated in any other language," Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told ERT television.

A statue of Alexander the Great dominates a square in the Macedonian capital Skopje
A statue of Alexander the Great dominates a square in the Macedonian capital Skopje
Robert ATANASOVSKI, AFP/File

Kotzias said any future agreement would have to be ratified by the Greek parliament, and that changes to Macedonia's constitution would also be necessary.

Nimetz is expected to hold talks with Kotzias on Tuesday. The fresh push for a solution follows the election last June of Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who says he is ready to settle the dispute.

Last week Nimetz proposed four alternative names in Macedonian, including "Republika Nova Makedonija" or the "Republic of New Macedonia".

Because of Greece's objections, Macedonia entered the United Nations under the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

A resolution of the issue is needed before Macedonia can join NATO or the EU, with Greece previously threatening to veto its entry over the dispute.

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