Saturday, 24 February, 2018

Macedonia to solve nation's name dispute with Greece

Greeks rally against use of 'Macedonia' in FYROM name dispute Greek PM on Macedonia issue: Foolish to waste opportunity for solution
Melinda Barton | 22 January, 2018, 02:52

Greece's opposition to the use of the name has left Skopje ineligible to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union.

According to the police, about 90 thousand people attended the rally, many coming from other parts of Greece.

Athens has repeatedly argued that the name Macedonia suggests that Skopje has territorial claims to its Greek namesake region.

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos, after a meeting he had this week with Tsipras, said that he is not going to support any of the upcoming protests, as he has "confidence in the Greek government to handle our national issues".

Cretans in traditional costumes who have travelled from the southern island with their horses, as well as people from northern Greece wearing costumes from the Macedonian wars era a century ago, were already gathered at the White Tower on the Thessaloniki waterfront ahead of the protest's planned start at 1200 GMT.

The protests in Greece come as Skopje and Athens in December rebooted UN-sponsored talks on their dispute after three years of stalemate.

Talks last week that were mediated by United Nations' diplomat Matthew Nimetz, did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to local media.

The Greek region of Macedonia boasts the major port cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala and was the centre of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom, a source of Greek pride.

In 1992, more than one million people - 10 percent of the population - joined a rally in Thessaloniki to proclaim that "Macedonia is Greek".

Protesters carried Greek flags and banners saying "Macedonia is Greek" and sang the Greek national anthem and the anthem of Greek Macedonia and chanting the slogan "There is only one Macedonia and it is Greek".

"It's totally groundless historically and absurd to seek the exclusivity of Macedonia", Tsipras told Sunday's Ethnos newspaper.

"For the last 25 years our neighbors are recognized as "Republic of Macedonia" by a number of countries while we are struggling everywhere to call them FYROM".

If a deal is reached at the United Nations talks, it will be put before Greek parliament for approval, with the government expecting the compromise name to be approved despite opposition within some parties.