Will UN Envoy Bring FYROM North?

The UN mediator is rumoured to float 'Northern Macedonia' in the latest regional tour, but pessimism prevails after Skopje's latest demands


AMID rampant rumours that the UN will propose variants of "Northern Macedonia" as the new name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), mediator Matthew Nimetz held talks with FYROM's President Branko Crvenkovski and Premier Nikola Gruevski on August 21. Nimetz was expected to meet with Greek negotiator Adamantios Vasilakis in Thessaloniki the next day.

On the eve of Nimetz's visit to Skopje, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis declared that the name of FYROM is the only issue that Athens will negotiate with Skopje after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appeared to suggest that the two countries could negotiate other differences after the name issue is resolved.

"The UN secretary-general stated the obvious, which is that there is only one mandate for Mr Nimetz: to discuss the matter of the name. Any country that wishes to maintain something different may be heard, but that does not mean that we share their opinion," Bakoyannis said after an August 20 inner cabinet meeting.

UN envoy Matthew Nimetz addresses the media at
the end of his visit to FYROM's capital Skopje on
August 21, in a fresh bid to end the Macedonia
name dispute between Fyrom and Greece

Ban's response to a letter from Gruevski, in which the FYROM premier claimed the existence of a "Macedonian minority" in Greece and sought dialogue on alleged human rights violations, caused an uproar by Greek opposition parties.

"I am aware there are other issues you think should be subject to discussion between Skopje and Athens. I hope that by solving the name issue, the road to better relations will be traced, which will contribute towards handling these other issues as well as finding possible solutions for them," Ban was quoted as having answered Gruevski.

Pasok's shadow foreign minister Andreas Loverdos blamed the government for the UN chief's apparent willingness to accept Gruevski's claims as a topic for future bilateral negotiations. Accusing Bakoyannis of spewing banalities about everyone being entitled to their view, Loverdos said the government's "wrong-headed acts and omissions" allowed Skopje to persuade the US and UN that non-existent issues are actually bilateral issues between Greece and FYROM.

Despite Greece's categorical denial of the existence of a Slavo-Macedonian minority in Greece, Skopje is intensifying its claims on all levels. FYROM parliament speaker Trajko Veljanovski sent a barrage of letters to leaders around the world urging the recognition of a "Macedonian minority" in Greece and alleging human rights violations. The letters were sent to his European counterparts, as well as to NATO, the OSCE and the European Parliament.

The letters came on the heels of a long list of similar letters sent by Gruevski to world leaders in July.

The UN chief's letter was seen as fresh pressure on Greece after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice challenged Greece's right to keep Skopje out of NATO based on the name issue. "This is something that should not get in the way of the admission of Macedonia to Nato, and that's what we're working on," Rice told an August 13 news conference.

(Posting Date 27 August 2008)

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