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UN Envoy: 'Positive Momentum' In Macedonia Name Dispute

UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz speaks to the press in Skopje in July 2017.
UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz speaks to the press in Skopje in July 2017.

A United Nations mediator says there is "positive momentum" toward settling a decades-long dispute between Macedonia and Greece over the former Yugoslav republic's name.

The UN envoy dealing with the matter, Matthew Nimetz, made the comment in an interview with Greek state broadcaster ERT aired on January 15, two days ahead of talks with Macedonian and Greek diplomats in New York.

Nimetz said that the governments in Athens and Skopje had shown in recent days that they want to find a solution to the dispute, which has hampered Macedonia's bid to join the European Union and NATO.

"I think the people in both countries are maybe ready to hear some solutions that are consistent with national interests but also have some element of compromise that would resolve the problem," the UN envoy said.

Leaders of both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.

Greece has objected to Skopje's use of the name Macedonia since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, arguing that it implies territorial ambitions on parts of the country.

Athens also contends that, by claiming the name, Macedonia is appropriating a part of Greece's ancient history.

The foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia, Nikow Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov, met on January 11 in the Greek port city of Thessaloniki in the latest effort to find a solution.

A Greek Foreign Ministry statement said the two ministers agreed to take a more active part in UN-supervised efforts to overcome the dispute.

"There is a general feeling of fatigue in both countries due to this long-lasting dispute," Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani told the Associated Press news agency on January 11.

"What I think is important is that we have achieved substantial progress in confidence-building between the two countries that finally will result in finding a...solution of the dispute," he added.

Greece, the United Nations, the European Union, and other bodies recognize the small Balkan country by its provisional name, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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