Sofia, 3 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mikhailova says a statement attributed to Greek President Kostas Stephanopoulos by a Skopje newspaper will not influence relations between Sofia and the Republic of Macedonia.
"Nova Makadonia" yesterday quoted Stephanopoulos as telling its Athens correspondent that residents of Skopje are not Macedonians, but rather, that they are Bulgarians.
Mikhailova told RFE/RL's Sofia bureau that the Bulgarian government continues to share common objectives with both Athens and Skopje. She said those goals are consistent with policies of the European Union and NATO that are designed to bring peace and economic revitalization in the Balkans.
At issue between Macedonia and Bulgaria is whether the Macedonians are a distinct people, or simply a branch of the Bulgarian nation. The dispute has lasted for well over 100 years and has linguistic, historical, and territorial aspects. The current Bulgarian position is to recognize Macedonian independence and statehood, but not to recognize that a Macedonian nation exists.