The U.S. State Department has welcomed Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov’s decision to give the opposition leader a mandate to form a new government, potentially breaking a political deadlock in the Balkan country.
The U.S. statement on May 18 said the decision "represents an important step forward for Macedonian democracy and the people of Macedonia."
"We look forward to working with the new government to tackle the myriad challenges facing Macedonia, including the need for democratic reforms and full implementation of the Przino agreement," the statement said, referring to an accord among Macedonian leaders brokered by the EU last year.
Ivanov on May 17 asked the leader of the Social Democrat party, Zoran Zaev, to form a government after having refused for weeks to give Zaev the mandate.
The Social Democrats and parties representing ethnic Albanians agreed to a coalition following a December parliamentary election in which no party received a resounding majority.
But Ivanov -- an ally of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, which has ruled Macedonia for years -- had refused to give a government mandate to Zaev, contending that the coalition's agreement to make Albanian the nation's second language threatened national unity and sovereignty.
However, after speaking with a U.S. envoy on May 1, Ivanov suggested he might relent if Zaev provided reassurances that his coalition would work according to the constitution and uphold national sovereignty.
Zaev told reporters on May 4 he was "ready, if necessary, to see Ivanov and offer guarantees that the territorial integrity of Macedonia will be respected."
The political stalemate stalled Skopje's efforts to move toward membership in the European Union and NATO.
"The United States remains Macedonia's friend and partner, and we are committed to supporting its European and Euro-Atlantic future," the U.S. statement added.
With reporting by AP and Reuters