UN Urges Greece, Rep. of Macedonia to Resolve Name Issue Soon

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations urged Greece and its neighbor, the Republic of Macedonia, to resolve a 27-year-old dispute that’s blocked the former Yugoslav state’s efforts to join the European Union and NATO for a decade.

The two governments showed “good will” to find compromise on Macedonia’s official label -- which Greece believes to be a territorial claim on its northern province of the same name, UN envoy Matthew Nimetz said Thursday in Skopje after meeting government officials from both countries this week. A solution is possible within weeks, he said.

“If we don’t do something now, the future is uncertain -- if we don’t make progress now, who can say what happens next year,” Nimetz said at a briefing streamed live from Skopje. “We should move forward quickly, within days.”

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s government, which took power last year, has promised to solve the dispute that dates back to 1991 when his nation broke away from Yugoslavia and named itself the Republic of Macedonia. Greece blocked its neighbor’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at a summit in Bucharest 10 years ago, and then later halted the start of EU negotiations.

The two governments resumed negotiations in December after a three-yearlong pause. Greece’s government will present a draft deal to Skopje this month, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said Monday in Athens. His counterpart Nikola Dimitrov didn’t rule out a possible failure in talks.

“If there’s a dignifying way, which will respect the identities of both countries, to solve this issue, we will find it,” Dimitrov said Thursday. “It’s possible that there isn’t such a way. Our task is to do everything possible to find it.”

A protest rally against the option allowing Skopje to use the term Macedonia in its official name is planned for Feb. 4 in Athens, according to AP.

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