Billboards placed in the Macedonian capital of Skopje defacing the Greek flag are "offensive" and unhelpful toward resolving the name dispute between the two countries, the US State Department said Tuesday. ( dpa )
"They are offensive. We don't think that that contributes in any positive way to a resolution of what we do understand is an emotional issue for both Greece and Macedonia," deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.
Greece has protested the signs hung by private individuals in Skopje showing the white cross on the flag replaced with a swastika.
Greece and Macedonia have been at odds over the latter's name for years, but the issue reached a boiling point ahead the NATO summit that began Tuesday in Bucharest, Romania. Greece has threatened to veto Macedonia's membership bid if the name dispute is not resolved.
Intense negotiations have failed to end the controversy.
Casey said the billboards don't "change our view that the two countries really do need to come to an agreement, a mutually acceptable one on the name issue."
Macedonia wants to enter the alliance under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia. Athens argues the name implies territorial claims to parts of Greece.
The United States irked Greece by recognizing Macedonia under its preferred name in 2004 but has backed the UN mediating role aimed at resolving the dispute.
Macedonia has been known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM, since separating from Yugoslavia in 1991. International organizations and most countries continue to use that name.