14 March, 2005
The government on Friday reiterated that Athens continues to support bilateral negotiations with the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter's name, a standing 'thorn' in otherwise excellent relations.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros made the statement at his regular press briefing in answer to questions citing a "pending resolution" of the dispute.
"Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. (Yiannis) Valynakis held talks in New York over a solution to the problem, which is none other than a mutually acceptable name within the framework of the United Nations," Antonaros added.
Asked if optimism is warranted, the spokesman said: "After three years of inactivity by the previous (Greek) government, the pace today has accelerated".
Relations between Greece and the former Yugoslav state to its north have dramatically improved since the two countries signed an interim agreement in New York nearly 10 years ago under the UN's auspices. Currently, only the "name issue" ranks as a difference, albeit a prickly one, between Athens and Skopje.
Successive Greek governments, the overwhelming majority of public opinion in the east Mediterranean country as well as numerous ethnic Greek communities around the world are adamantly opposed to FYROM's attempt to use the name "Macedonia", citing historical and political reasons.Under the terms of the agreement, Greece and FYROM are responsible for continuing negotiations to find a mutually acceptable solution.
According to recent figures, Greece ranks first in terms of foreign investment in FYROM, roughly 300 million euros.
Source: Athens News Agency