United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to Macedonia's parliament that he will try to speed up the process of resolving Macedonia's long-running name dispute with Greece.
He told the parliament after a meeting with Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov that his "personal representative [for the name dispute], Mr. Matthew Nimetz, will also brief the Greek government authorities about what we have discussed and he will engage more seriously and deeply to help facilitate the resolution of this issue as soon as possible."
Ban also expressed his regret that the Skopje-Athens standoff over the country’s name is presenting an obstacle for regional cooperation and development.
"I will try to engage with [Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras] to help expedite this process. I feel it regrettable that two neighboring countries, over this name issue, have not been able to fully use their potential for regional cooperation, reconciliation, and development," Ban said.
Macedonia and Greece have been locked in a name dispute since the former Yugoslav republic gained independence in 1991. Athens has blocked Macedonia's membership in NATO because of the row, arguing that the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim over its northern region of the same name.
Skopje rejects Greece's claim. More than 130 nations recognize the country as Macedonia, but it is still listed at the UN under its provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
After visiting Macedonia, Ban continued his Balkans tour with a visit on July 25 to his last stop in the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he is expected to visit Srebrenica, the site of Europe's worst massacre since World War II.
Earlier this month, Bosnians marked the 17th anniversary of the slaughter in which Bosnian Serbs killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 after capturing the town that had been declared a UN safe area.
In Srebrenica, Ban made a plea for an end to the violence in Syria.
"Here in the heart of a healing Bosnia and Herzegovina, I make a plea to the world: do not delay. Come together. Act. Act now to stop the slaughter in Syria," he said.
Ban has visited Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo since he began his Balkans tour on July 20.