Nimetz Denies US Influence

A leaked confidential report from the US envoy to Skopje outlines the UN mediator's proposal and seeks indirect recognition of 'Macedonian' ethnicity and language

By George Gilson

MATTHEW Nimetz is declaring his independence and objectivity as UN mediator on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) name problem, but the leak of a US State Department document showing that his latest proposal, tabled on October 8, reflects understandings reached between Skopje and Washington has caused an uproar.

On October 19, the Athens Sunday newspaper Ethnos published a confidential memo (classified until 2018) from US Ambassador to Skopje Gillian Milovanovic to the US State Department, the National Security Council and the Department of Defence outlining the terms of an agreement that could be accepted by Fyrom Premier Nikola Gruevski - terms adopted by Nimetz in his latest proposal.

"The Americans guided the Skopjeans on how to say 'yes' to the name and promised a flexibility on the scope of its use and a subterranean imposition of the language and ethnicity as 'Macedonia'," the Greek newspaper wrote in presenting the document. The article, which included scans of the leaked document, was not signed by the paper's Washington correspondent, Michalis Ignatiou, but rather with the byline "Special Contributor".

The terms outlined by Milovanovic include the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia" (or "North Macedonia"). The scope of the use of the new name would be "all international organisations, plus bilaterally by any country which does not want to use the constitutional name". The new name would be used in international multilateral agreements but would be optional in bilateral accords.

"Macedonia would use its constitutional name in referring to itself on passports, product labels, in the media etc..." Milovanovic wrote.

What caused an uproar in Greece was the proposal by the US envoy to recognise a "Macedonian" ethnicity and language on the sly - without placing it on the negotiating table in Athens-Skopje talks, but having the UN Security Council approve it in a resolution without Greek acquiescence.

In a paragraph with the heading "identity", Milovanovic proposes: "The language and nationality would be called Macedonian, but this could be handled tacitly, perhaps as a subsequent annex to UNSCR [resolution], or in some other internal UN document not subject to UN review/approval. Bottom line is Macedonia needs assurance that their language, nationality etc would continue to be called Macedonian, not north Macedonian."

Greece has insisted throughout the talks that the name of Fyrom is the only issue subject to negotiation, based on the UN Security Council mandate under which Nimetz is working.

The confidential document also outlines a series of hardline terms that Gruevski raised in discussions with the US envoy, including that the modifier "northern" be placed in parentheses, that recognition of a Macedonian language and ethnicity be explicit and not tacit and that the new name's use be limited to international organisations where Fyrom is already used. Gruevski objected to any UN Security Council recommendation that third countries use the new name (over 100 UN member states use the constitutional name already), either across the board or in bilateral agreements with Fyrom.

Notably, the US envoy notes her prediction that Gruevski could back off on these issues in order to reach an agreement, although she believes that Gruevski will stand by his pledge to submit any solution to a referendum.

In a TV interview last July, around the time she wrote her leaked memo, Milovanovic said: "There are proposals that certainly Macedonia should be able to put forward with Mr Nimetz that would protect Macedonia's concerns and still be things that could be negotiated with Greece, and that is certainly what we hope will be done in order to really solve the problem. This is a golden opportunity to get it done,"

Nimetz is still awaiting the responses of Greece and Fyrom to his proposals, which neither side has rejected outright. But the latest revelations are expected to complicate the UN mediator's task, and many Greek observers expected the talks to be put on hold until after the November 4 US presidential elections.

One high-level Greek diplomat told this newspaper that the leaked document embarrasses mainly Gruevski, whose "doublespeak" is highlighted by exposing the gap between his complete public intransigence and the private red lines.

But Greek opposition parties blasted the government, charging that it was naively being led along to a solution hiding many hidden traps.

(Posting Date 31 October 2008)

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