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article imageUN envoy 'very hopeful' about solving Macedonia name dispute

By AFP     Jan 17, 2018 in World

UN envoy Matthew Nimetz said Wednesday he was "very hopeful" that a solution was within reach to end a 27-year dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the former Yugoslav republic's name.

"I am very hopeful that this process is moving in a positive direction," said Nimetz following talks with envoys from the two countries at the United Nations.

Greece's objections to the use of the name Macedonia since the Balkan country's independence in 1991 have hampered Skopje's bid to join the European Union and NATO.

Macedonia is known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at the United Nations, but the Security Council acknowledged that this was a provisional name when it agreed to membership.

Nimetz told reporters that he had presented a package of proposals to the two envoys, who will return to their capitals to consult with their governments over the coming weeks.

The envoy will travel to Greece and Macedonia soon to discuss the proposed solution, which he did not unveil to the media following a two-hour meeting.

"I view this as a good set of ideas, a compromise, and a package that both sides should feel comfortable with and lead to a dignified and satisfactory solution," he said.

Some of the solutions floated include using the name New Macedonia or Northern Macedonia, but Greek nationalists argue that there should be no reference to Macedonia at all.

Greece maintains that the use of Macedonia suggests that Skopje has territorial claims to its own Macedonia -- a northern region that boasts the port cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala and was the center of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom, a source of Greek pride.

Several rounds of talks aimed at settling the dispute failed, but Nimetz said he believed the outcome would be different this time.

"I do think so. I really believe that we have leadership in both Athens and Skopje that genuinely want a solution," he said.

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