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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-04-01

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Athens reiterates 'name issue' points

  • [01] Athens reiterates 'name issue' points

    A foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday referred to the very short period of time remaining until Wednesday's NATO summit in Bucharest when asked about the prospects for a solution to the FYROM 'name issue' still separating Athens and Skopje.

    "Dramatically marginal, but not non-existent," was spokesman George Koumoutsakos' laconic answer to press questions over the issue that has dominated the foreign affairs agenda over recent weeks, in light of the Alliance summit and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) application to join NATO.

    He nevertheless noted that time was only restricted as far as the summit was concerned.

    "If we are referring to a negotiations process under the UN's auspices, then there is no deadline, and we are ready to continue negotiations until a mutually acceptable solution is found," he said, adding that a new UNSC resolution will be necessary if such an agreement is achieved.

    Moreover, asked about the political climate in the two neighbouring countries (Greece and FYROM) vis-?-vis the nagging dispute over the latter's constitutional name, Koumoutsakos said a string of provocations in neighbouring FYROM "are not limited to just the insulting defacing of the Greek flag, but to Greek history and the Greek people's sacrifices to defeat the Axis powers.

    "One could speak of sporadic incidents, but my feeling is that these incidents not only confirm, but are the product of a specific line of reasoning by (FYROM) government circles - I definitely exclude the neighbouring people - in the neighbouring country; they confirm and are the product of a nationalistic and irredentist reasoning and policy that is supported and exploited by the desire to monopolise the name (i.e. Macedonia) as indicative of an entire wider region".

    In emphasising the last point, the Greek foreign ministry spokesman said Athens sternly opposes a name that will allow a single country in the region to monopolise an entire geographical area.

    In touching on a related aspect that has generated widespread press speculation in the local press, namely, claims of US administration "pressure" on Athens to back down on the issue, Koumoutsakos merely noted that Greece was in complete agreement with Washington over NATO's expansion in the western Balkans, reminding that Greece has been a frontrunner in efforts to promote the Euro-Atlantic course of the area's countries.

    "We also back the 'open door' policy, and in this sense, there is no difference of opinion with the United States. The issue here, and it's at this point that some differences of opinion may arise, is the view that only technical criteria comprise the basis for approving an invitation for (NATO) membership?

    "When there is a clear-cut problem, as you've seen in recent days, due to provocations and the accompanying atmosphere that has been created; when there is a problem in relations between a member-state and a prospective member, the member-state should not -- and this is quite reasonable -- consent to an invitation for membership. This is the situation; these are our principled and crystal clear positions, and all of these suggestions regarding 'pressures' or other expressions, I would term them 'intense encouragement', attempt to color an open and sincere discussion with the United States, a discussion between long-time allies," Koumoutsakos said.

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