Monday, December 10, 2007

Greece: Bakoyannis Warns FYROM to Change Stance Enabling Solution to Name Issue by April

Direct Negotiations under the auspices of Matthew Nimetz to resume after New Year

Brussels (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis) -

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who represented Greece at the NATO foreign ministers conference, warned the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) here on Friday to change its stance to enable the finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the neighbouring country's name by this coming April.Speaking during her address on NATO's future enlargement, she said that all the member-states of the Alliance desire a successful course for Croatia, Albania and FYROM, but stressed that nothing must be taken for granted.

Referring specifically to the prospect of FYROM joining NATO, the foreign minister said that the Skopje government must make "laborious" efforts to meet the terms and preconditions set by the Alliance to accept new member-states.

"The timely, mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name constitutes a substantive and essential precondition for the accession of FYROM to NATO," Bakoyannis said and pointed out that the stance of the Skopje government to date, as has been manifested with a series of counter-productive actions and decisions of intransigence and irredentist logic deals a blow at relations of good neighbourliness and prevents the prospects of building allied relations.
The foreign minister further said that the neighbouring country's government must take political decisions "of a similar boldness with those that we have taken in Greece to enable a change in direction."

She added that "now is the time for a solution to issues whose perpetuation has a negative impact on regional cooperation and security."

Asked to comment on recent statements by Skopje Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki (who said that the speedup in negotiations between Greece and FYROM on the name issue is a positive development without, however, this meaning that the problem will also be solved soon), Bakoyannis said that she focuses primarily on the point in the statement that mentions that the speedup in negotiations is positive.

Elaborating further on the issue, the foreign minister said that negotiations for a solution to the name issue have a specific topic and it must not be considered that they have the nature of confidence-building measures between the two sides.

Summing up her views on the issue, Bakoyannis said that as the situation stands now, with regard to NATO's enlargement, Croatia is the candidate country finding itself in the best position, followed by Albania, while FYROM must make considerable efforts.

"The decisions on the invitations for accession to NATO must not be considered and they are not foregone conclusions," she said.

The foreign minister mentioned that she also briefed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Greece's positions, who extended an invitation to her and whom she met in Brussels on Friday.

Bakoyannis said that she briefed the U.S. Secretary of State on the reasons that Greece believes that there should be a specific timetable for the finding of a mutually acceptable solution between Greece and FYROM on the issue of the latter's definite name.

The foreign minister also mentioned that, apart from the issue of FYROM's name, the other issue she discussed with the U.S. Secretary was developments in Kosovo.

Bakoyannis stressed during her address on Kosovo at NATO's conference that the international community, and the Atlantic Alliance with it, must make every effort to achieve security and stability in the wider region.

The foreign minister further underlined the importance of the continuation of the mission and presence of the NATO force in Kosovo, based on the UN Security Council's resolution 1244. She also pointed to the significance of the fact that the government of Serbia requested from NATO itself to keep KFOR in Kosovo.

Lastly, referring to the situation in Afghanistan, which was one of the main issues that preoccupied NATO's conference on Friday, Bakoyannis said that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a basic aim for the Alliance, just like support and training for the national Afghan security forces is, and which are assisting the efforts of the Afghan government.


Greek leadership and visiting UN special mediator on the FYROM "name issue" Matthew Nimetz agreed on Wednesday to intensify and accelerate UN-brokered negotiations on the sole remaining difference between Athens and Skopje, following a one-hour meeting at the foreign ministry in the Greek capital between the UN envoy and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

Nimetz, who arrived in Athens after his talks in Skopje, was also received by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the Maximos Mansion. The former was accompanied by Bakoyannis.

Later in the day, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos confirmed that Greek and FYROM negotiators, Amb. Adamantios Vassilakis and Nikola Dimitrov, will meet in Skopje after the Christmas holidays, following a decision to accelerate UN-brokered negotiations.

The meeting will be held in Nimetz's presence and hosted by FYROM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, with the prospect of a follow-up meeting hosted by the Greek FM in Athens. Such a second meeting would also be held at the negotiators' level and in the presence of the UN special mediator, Koumoutsakos said.

After the meeting with Bakoyannis, Nimetz underlined the strong international interest for a solution to the issue, something that became apparent during contacts he had with the American government and European governments, as he said.

He stressed that the matter is not simply a bilateral issue between two countries, pointing out that it is a UN matter concerning a number of countries in different ways, whereas a resolution will be a relief.

Koumoutsakos said the continuation and intensification of the talks meant that FYROM has not rejected Nimetz's package of ideas as a basis for the negotiation, while he clarified that during Wednesday's meeting between the UN envoy and Bakoyannis, which he said was held in a "very good climate", the two officials reviewed developments in the “name issue” since the Nov. 1 commencement of a new round of talks.

The Greek side stressed that the negotiations had a timeline up to the day when FYROM will possibly receive an invitation to join NATO, Koumoutsakos said, whereas Nimetz said that his mission does not have a specific timetable, but that all the developments in the region, such as those concerning the future status of Kosovo and NATO enlargement, were leading to an acceleration of the procedures for settlement of the outstanding issue with FYROM as well.

Regarding the Athens-Skopje interim agreement of 1995, Nimetz said that although he had heard "different interpretations", nevertheless, "I did not hear anyone disputing it".

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