UN Mediator:Gaps Remain on Greece-Macedonia Name Deal

SKOPJE, 09.12.2013 - UN mediator Matthew Nimetz stated substantial differences remain between Greece and Macedonia on solving the vexed “name” issueAfter meeting Macedonian leaders on Wednesday, Nimetz said in Skopje that his latest visit to the region had not significantly narrowed the gap between the two countries over two key points.“Athens has two problems with my proposal – the positioning of the geographic qualifier and the scope of usage of the agreed name,” he explained. The envoy was referring to the latest proposal for a solution to the dispute over Macedonia`s name that he proposed in April. Nimetz refused to divulge his suggested formula but reports have indicated that it was “Upper Republic of Macedonia". His words in Skopje confirm reports in the Greek media that Athens would prefer the geographical qualifier "Upper" to be used efore the word "Macedonia", rather than before the word "Republic". Nimetz did reveal that the use of the word "Macedonia" in his latest proposal was not questioned. A sticking point for Greece is that it wants any agreed composite name to be obligatory for all purposes, not only used bilaterally. Macedonia wants any agreed composite name to be restricted to use in bilateral relations with Greece, and it insists that any compromise deal should not involve changes to the country’s constitution or to people`s travel documents. Macedonia obtained EU candidate status back in December 2005, and European Commission reports have recommended a start to membership talks each year since 2009. But the country has never been offered a date for EU accession talks, nor an invitation to join NATO, owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over its name. Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia. During his two-day visit to Skopje, Nimetz met Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki. After already visiting Athens and Skopje, Nimetz said that he was  heading back to Athens to continue talks.

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