NATO chief expresses hope for solution to Greece-Macedonia dispute
( dpa ) - NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoops Scheffer expressed hope Monday that a solution would be found to the long-running name dispute between Athens and Skopje before a key summit next month that runs the risk of leaving aspiring member Macedonia out in the cold.
Greece is threatening to veto Macedonia's bid to join the military alliance during an April 2-4 summit in Bucharest unless a solution to the name dispute between the two neighbours is reached.
"I think it is clear that an invitation for membership will depend on performance and performance is key on the name issue," Scheffer told journalists following talks with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni.
"Those countries that want and aspire to enter the door of NATO should perform and this depends on consensus within all 26 countries within NATO."
"I want to see a consensus but it should be achievable and possible," he added.
Scheffer's visit to Athens to discuss the dispute took place as diplomats from Greece and Macedonia have been holding marathon negotiations with United Nations envoys to solve the long-running name issue.
The name dispute between Greece and its neighbour broke out shortly after the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Macedonia is called FYROM at the United Nations but the United States and more than 100 countries have recognized it as Macedonia.
Greece has objected to the name, arguing that it could imply claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and could destabilize the region.
Earlier this month, UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz presented both countries with five alternate names which according to a Greek newspaper are: Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, New Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Upper Macedonia.
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni has repeatedly said that "no solution means no invitation."
"Accession requires the approval from all members of NATO. There is no doubt that Greece will not relinquish any of the its membership rights."
NATO foreign ministers will meet on March 6 in Brussels for their final discussion on membership aspirations of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia ahead of a summit in Bucharest April 2-4 that will determine whether to issue invitations.
Scheffer said the Bucharest summit would concentrate on increased NATO operations in Afghanistan and sending roughly 16,000 KFOR soldiers to Kosovo, "to protect every Kosovar regardless of minority."