Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Greece: Greece lashes out on name issue with Macedonia

Greece has voiced frustration at the lack of progress in United Nations-backed talks for resolving its long-running dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter country’s official name.

“Greece has participated in good faith” in negotiations on the name issue over the past 15 years, Anastassis Mitsialis, the country’s ambassador to the UN, stressed in his address to the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

Despite Greece’s “huge step towards a compromise” by accepting the use of ‘Macedonia’ with a geographical qualifier in the name, no substantive progress has been made in the talks, he said.

“The persistence of the leadership in Skopje in pursuing exclusivity over the name by denying a geographic qualifier and the anachronistic rhetoric and policies that run contrary to the principle of good neighbourly relations raise serious questions as to its real motives,” Mr. Mitsialis noted.

His country is seeking a solution that “will respect the dignity of both countries and peoples,” he said on the debate’s last day.

Last Friday, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov called on Greece to stop taking actions “to unfavourably influence the outcome” of the row.

His country, he told the heads of State and government gathered in New York, is willing to make “a reasonable and fair compromise” over its name, so long as it does not “touch upon, nor deny our national, cultural and linguistic identity in any way.”

He stressed that “there is no more sovereign right than the right of self-determination and self-identification, a right cherished by many generations before us.”

The Interim Accord of 13 September 1995, which was brokered by the UN, details the difference between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece on the name issue. It also obliges the two countries to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach agreement.

Since 1999, Matthew Nimetz, the UN’s Personal Envoy on the issue, has been holding talks with the two sides and proposed compromise names. Last week, he said he believes some momentum is building on the issue with a number of ideas on the table. The next round of talks will resume once the Greek elections are over and a new government is installed.

In his address today to the Assembly, the Greek official also touched on the situation in Cyprus, which he characterized as “unacceptable,” with Turkish forces continuing to occupy a part of the territory of the island nation, which is also a European Union Member State.

“We strongly believe that the two communities” – Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot – “should be left alone, with no external pressures, guidance or interventions, to decide on their common future,” he said. “The solution must be theirs and theirs alone.”

Cyprus’ President Demetris Christofias echoed the same theme in his speech to the Assembly last week, underscoring that he and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots Mehmet Ali Talat agreed that talks, which started last year under UN auspices, are intended to be “in the hands of the Cypriots without arbitration and artificial timetables.”

The ultimate goal, he said, is “the restoration of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of the Republic of Cyprus, the common homeland of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”

Source: UN

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