Greece said on Tuesday it was “far away” from resolving a decades-long dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (FYROM) despite progress in talks between the two neighbors.
“In our continuing talks with our neighbors, there has been significant progress but we are still far away from concluding negotiations and reaching an agreement,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told a press briefing.
The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia are expected to meet in neighboring Bulgaria on Thursday on the sidelines of an EU-Western Balkans summit.
Tzanakopoulos said the meeting would be “very useful and important” but the two countries might need a new round of talks to resolve the dispute.
Athens and Skopje decided last year to renew their efforts to try to reach a settlement well before the summer.
Prime Minister AlexisTsipras hopes a resolution would increase his political leverage in Europe while boosting his popularity at home, where many Greeks feel the country’s debt crisis and three huge bailouts have compromised its sovereignty.
FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who came to power a year ago, hopes to boost his fragile coalition with a deal that would also open up the path to EU and NATO membership for the tiny landlocked Balkan country.
Greece has asked FYROM to change its name and to revise its constitution to exclude what it says are “irredentist” references denoting territorial ambitions.
Tzanakopoulos said any deal would be comprehensive and would outline specific targets and a timeframe.
“It won’t be a solution which will be concluded by pressing a button,” he said, reiterating that Greece wanted a compound name which would be used in all international forums. [Reuters]