BRUSSELS -- The UN Special Representative for the naming dispute between Greece and Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, said on December 12 that the issue "can and should be resolved" next year after the parties met for the first time in three years in Brussels.
Greece objects to Skopje's use of the name Macedonia, saying it implies irredentist and territorial ambitions on the part of Skopje.
Greece's objections have complicated Skopje's aspirations to join NATO and the European Union.
Nimetz, a U.S. diplomat who is the personal envoy of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said after a meeting with Greek and Macedonian envoys Adamantios Vassilakis and Vasko Naumovski that "the atmosphere is a much better one and from both Skopje, and Athens there is an indication that we should make an intensive effort to resolve this issue that has been outstanding for so many years."
Under the new government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Macedonia has been seeking to speed up the Balkan nation's efforts to join the EU and NATO by improving strained relations with neighbors Greece and Bulgaria, and has been pushing for new talks with Athens over the long-standing name dispute.
Nimetz voiced hope that a breakthrough would be possible soon, saying, "The general mood is that the next months, certainly the next year, is a year in which these issues can and should be resolved."
"My own thinking as the UN representative on these tasks is to make a real push to see in the next months whether we can get to some resolution," he added.
Nimetz refused to speculate about what new name could replace Macedonia's current official name -- the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.