Greece seeks FYROM name dispute resolution before supporting EU, NATO bids

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-14 23:52:22|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ATHENS, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Greece is ready to support Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) membership bids to join the EU and NATO once the name issue dispute between Athens and Skopje is resolved, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said here on Wednesday.

Athens and Skopje are at odds over the use of the name of Macedonia since Greece's northern neighbor broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Macedonia is the name of a northern province in Greece and Athens is worried that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.

During the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, Greece vetoed FYROM's application to enter the alliance without having solved the name issue.

As Skopje has renewed efforts to join EU and NATO, Greece has signaled that its position remains unchanged.

"We believe and we are open to supporting each one of their efforts as long as the name issue is resolved. This is the precondition and I think that we must and we can work towards a good compromise which will be beneficial to both sides," Kotzias said during joint statements to the press with his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov following talks in the Greek capital.

"We (must and can) contribute to make clear to our citizens and our societies that we have more to gain if we overcome historic obstacles rather than sticking to disputes which end at a dead end," the Greek official stressed.

The government change at Skopje a few weeks ago following an acute political crisis and Dimitrov's visit to Athens raised hopes that improved bilateral cooperation can lead to the resolution of the name dispute which started in the 1990s.

Both Kotzias and Dimitrov on Wednesday underlined the "positive climate" during their talks and the willingness of both sides to strengthen their ties in many sectors.

They both also stressed during the press conference that the road to put an end to the name dispute will not be easy, but a mutually beneficial solution can be achieved.

"I am convinced that you have the leverage in your hands and that this leverage can help open the way towards closing the one open issue," Dimitrov said.