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Athens holds its ground in name dispute March 31, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Politics.
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Greece and FYROM still at odds as US ups pressure before NATO summit

The Greek government yesterday insisted that it would not be pushed into accepting a compromise on the Macedonia name dispute before Wednesday’s NATO summit, as Western pressure for an immediate solution intensified.

«No solution means no invitation for Skopje to join NATO» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told Parliament on Saturday, stressing «only a mutually acceptable solution… can form the basis for constructive relations within the alliance.»

Meanwhile US officials cranked up the pressure on Athens to agree to a settlement so that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) can join NATO. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Greece’s Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday night to stress Washington’s resolve. And, sources said, US President George W. Bush is considering inviting Karamanlis and FYROM’s Premier Nikola Gruevski for talks on the matter before the NATO summit gets under way.

Bakoyannis has stuck to her guns, dismissing Rice’s description of the name spat as «something that has to do with antiquity» and stressing, in an interview published in yesterday’s Ethnos, that «we are not a country that takes orders from anyone.» Bakoyannis added that «the pressure of time will not lead us to accept proposals in the form of an ultimatum.»

The Greek FM said she believed United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz might make a fresh proposal before Wednesday but said, «It will be difficult to reach a solution before the summit.»

But her FYROM counterpart Antonio Milososki said he thought a deal could be struck by then. «We are running out of time but I think the possibility (of an agreement) still exists,» he told reporters on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Slovenia on Saturday. He said FYROM’s parliament will today discuss Nimetz’s latest proposal for a solution to the name dispute – Republic of Macedonia (Skopje) – which is said to have appealed to FYROM.

Milososki and Bakoyannis had been due to hold talks in Slovenia at the weekend but the Greek side canceled the meeting after US pressure intensified.

Most European Foreign Ministers at the Slovenia summit avoided taking a stance on the FYROM accession issue. But Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of the regional repercussions of blocking Skopje’s bid to join NATO. «This summit does not have the right to fail and must not replace more stability for less stability,» he said.

31-03-08_poster1.jpg  In the meantime Greece has strongly condemned the appearance of offensive billboards featuring the Greek Flag in Skopje. Greece handed over a protest note to FYROM, requesting an immediate removal of a billboard in Skopje showing a Nazi swastika attached to Greek flag.

Greece’s Ambassador to Skopje, Alexandra Papadopoulou, has been instructed, within the day, to make a strong demarche to the Foreign Ministry of FYROM, requesting the immediate removal of the offensive billboard.

31-03-08_poster2.jpg  “This unacceptable poster, which was circulated via a private initiative and raised on Skopje’s streets, directly insults our country’s National Symbol and our struggle against fascism and Nazism,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Koumoutsakos said.

“This incident demonstrates the huge mistake made by those who invest in nationalism and bigotry. It also confirms, once again, the correctness of Greece’s position that a necessary condition for the establishment of relations of solidarity and allied relations is, in practice, respect of good-neighborly relations between countries and peoples,” he added.

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