The US is urging Macedonia and Greece to put aside unproductive disputes over differing interpretations of history and identity when trying to find a solution to the long-running name dispute between the two countries.
“The issue is about the name, that’s why we call it a “name” issue. And Macedonia and Greece have to work to resolve it,” US Ambassador to Macedonia Philip Reeker said, the Makfax news agency reported.
He tried to elaborate on the recent similar statement by the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Stewart Jones. In it Jones urged both countries to put aside the quarrels over history and identity that only stall the name negotiations.
The UN sponsored name talks have practically stopped in the last few months as both countries undergo elections. The US has played a key role as catalyst to the talks with Jones announcing further efforts to resolve the issue after elections in Greece in June.
The US will do everything in their power to help speed up a resolution of this long standing dispute, Reeker further said, but reiterated that it is up to both sides to work towards a settlement.
“We heard at the inaugural speech of the new [Macedonian] President [Georgi] Ivanov that he plans to work in this direction” Ricker said.
The row that has lingered almost two decades since Macedonia’s independence from former Socialist Yugoslavia escalated last year when Greece blocked its neighbor’s NATO accession over it.
Greece argues that Macedonia’s formal name implies territorial claims towards its own territory as it is the same as the name of its northern province.
While Greece insists on a new name that would clearly distinguish the country from its province and would be applicable everywhere, Macedonia argues that since only Greece has a problem with the name, the new mutually agreed reference should be used only in bilateral correspondence with Athens.