UN envoy: No deadline to solving Macedonia name dispute

(dpa) - UN envoy Matthew Nimetz said on Friday there was no deadline for a resolution to solving a name dispute between Athens and Skopje that has prevented Macedonia from joining NATO but stressed that recent events have put a different cast on the process.
"It is a difficult issue involving two democracies and there are national interests at stake ... the events of the last month have put a different cast on the whole situation," Nimetz said following talks with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni.
Greece and Macedonia have been in dispute over the latter's name since 1991, when Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Greece says that the name implies a territorial claim on its own northern province, also called Macedonia.
Athens has invited Skopje to resume talks in an effort to solve a name dispute which caused Macedonia's delegation to walk out of a April 2 NATO summit after Athens refused to let it join the alliance.
"I am not closer to a solution right now ... but I think it is a very live process and both sides have reiterated that they want to continue with negotiations ... it has highlighted where real national interests are and where there is room to compromise," Nimetz said.
The UN envoy did not say when or where he would invite negotiators to resume talks.
"We want to continue negotiation and to find a solution as soon as possible to the dispute," said Bakoyianni, adding that there was no timetable.
Macedonia has also said that it will continue the negotiations with Greece, insisting that early elections, expected in July, will not affect the talks.
"The period of general elections in either country makes it a very difficult time to have these type of negotiations," said Nimetz.
Skopje has said that while it was prepared to compromise with Athens it would do so but only within limits.
"I am not presenting any new or old suggestions ... so there are no final recommendations or definitive recommentation on the table," Nimetz said.
The UN mediator has coordinated a series of meetings between Greek and Macedonia negotiators over the 17-year dispute and recently said he believed a solution would not take months and months to reach.
The UN has been leading talks on the thorny issue for over a decade, suggesting a compromise name to both parties as recently as March 26. Athens rejected that proposal, saying that it was "far from the goals sought by Greece."

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