by Aggelos Skordas
Greece and FYROM have come a long way with the ongoing negotiations regarding the naming dispute but there are still issues that remain open thus “we are not yet in a position to talk about an agreement”, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday following a meeting with his counterpart Zoran Zaev. As both sides have now confirmed a new meeting is scheduled for next month.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, following what he described as a night-long meeting with Zaev, Tsipras appeared restrained compared to his optimistic counterpart, while emphasising that this is a multilevel and complex negotiation and praising the work done by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov.
Tsipras also referred to a “significant progress achieved in the last meeting under the United Nations mediator Mathew Nimetz”.
“We have travelled a great deal of distance but there is still way to go. We look at all the details step by step”, the Greek Premier characteristically added. On the other hand, Zaev told press that the two had discussed one specific solution to the impasse over the former Yugoslav republic’s name.
Despite the repeated questions, Tsipras carefully avoided to specifically speak about possible names and to give more information on the content of the “solution” mentioned earlier by Zaev. “There is a number of suggestions and alternatives on which we are working on, but nothing has been clinched, not even in the name issue”, Tsipras pointed out, reiterating that there is no milestone for an agreement.
“Our common goal is to have a result until the summit scheduled for the end of June and the meeting of European ministers a few days before”, he said. Responding to questions about the distance that remains until the final agreement, Tsipras stressed that it is not an easy negotiation: “This is what we are trying to do, and that is why these negotiations are not easy. We defend a national position that exists for years but has never reached a final negotiating stage. The bar is high but what we are seeking is not a fragile agreement that will be lost. We want a time-bound agreement that will be adopted by the peoples, which will bring us one step ahead and will be respecting the history and sentiment of the two peoples. We have reached the toughest point, the last steps of the route are the most difficult.”
Regarding his counterpart’s statements on a solution that has been agreed, Tsipras stressed that he did not listen to Zaev’s speech but there are thoughts on the table about all open issues. “We are looking to find solutions without altering our red lines”, he concluded.
In an interview with state-run AMNA news agency, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the “strong political support” towards a solution in the FYROM name issue, and notes that “if the name issue is solved then NATO will invite the FYROM to become a member”, characterising the Alliance’s policy of expanding with new members “a great success”.