With the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) eager to advance its membership applications to NATO and the EU, FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov discussed ways to resolve the name dispute with Greece and his country’s Euro-Atlantic prospects with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington.
According to a statement issued by the FYROM foreign ministry, Dimitrov and Tillerson discussed the political situation in FYROM and the region, as well as “current developments in the process of transcending differences with Greece over the name issue”.
Dimitrov expressed the conviction that with American and European support his country will become a full member of NATO.
Tillerson and Dimitrov made no joint public statements, as it was a working meeting.
Greece has for years made clear that without a mutually acceptable resolution of the name dispute, which is linked to Skopje’s longstanding irredentist claims, Athens will continue to block its neighbour’s membership.
That is precisely what happened in April, 2008, when then prime minister Costas Karamanlis “vetoed” FYROM’s NATO membership, which had been announced by then US president George W. Bush as a done deal on the eve of the summit.
Unanimity is required to take decisions in NATO.
At the time, Albania and Croatia were invited to join the alliance, but FYROM was left out due to the Greek objections.
“We have a chance to become the 30th member of NATO and we are determined not to miss it,” Dimitrov said at a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence’s Special Advisor on Europe and Russia, Molly Montgomery.
According to a statement issued by the foreign ministry in Skopje, Montgomery said that, “The Balkans is high on the White House’s list of priorities, while the Republic of Macedonia is one of the key countries for moving the entire region forward.”
FYROM seeks quick agreement on name
“Foreign Minister Dimitrov deemed the leadership role and the engagement of US Vice President Mike Pence as exceptionally important in promoting the Euro-Atlantic future of the region, which was clearly expressed at the recent meeting of Balkan leaders in Montenegro,” the statement said.
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Euroasian Affairs Wess Mitchell reportedly expressed strong US support for “reform activities aimed at, inter alia, the re-opening of the perspectives for faster integration of the country into NATO and the EU”, and that the US is determined to help.
“He [Mitchell] welcomed the constructive policy of the government of Macedonia and the resoluteness to overcome all open issues in relations with its neighbours,” the foreign ministry in Skopje said, clearly alluding to the name dispute.