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Bulgaria: Talks End Without Solution To Macedonian Language Problem

Sofia, 4 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Two days of political consultations between Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ended Friday in Sofia without a solution to the critical problems of language and nation recognition.

Bulgaria refuses to recognize officially the Macedonian language or nation. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for its part, insists on official recognition of each. The language recognition has become the central problem of relations between the two countries, which were unable to sign any bilateral documents.

Skopje has turned down Sofia's offers to use the English language, or to refer to Macedonian as "the official language of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

Bulgaria was among the first countries to recognize the independence of the Macedonian state in 1992, but Bulgarians traditionally consider Macedonians as a historical part of the Bulgarian nation.

After talks ended Friday, Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov said, "our talks and our specific agreements have created a new and very promising atmosphere, which might soon bring serious and prospective results."

RFE/RL has learned that Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry offered a compromise on the language issue. Our Sofia correspondent reports Bulgaria has offered to let each party refer to the other's language as each party considers appropriate. An official of Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry told RFE/RL that this would be a solution similar to the Greece-Macedonia compromise on the name of Macedonia. But the Macedonian delegation today refused Sofia's language-recognition offer.

Macedonia's Deputy Foreign Minister Ognian Malevski said he "was satisfied to meet (Bulgaria's) Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and discuss bilateral relations."

"We have also discussed a future meeting of the prime ministers of the two countries, which would help develop bilateral relations," said Malevski.

Macedonia's Sofia embassy refused to comment on the Bulgarian offer, but confirmed a new round of talks will take place in Skopje this week.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL that a solution to the language dispute would bring rapid improvement in bilateral political and trade relations, including the creation of a free-trade zone between Bulgaria and Macedonia.