Political leaders in Athens and Skopje are bracing for a diplomatic marathon over the 26-year-old dispute between Greece and FYROM over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.
On both sides of the border there have been encouraging signs and statements that the dispute may be reaching a defining moment as a compromise solution is worked behind the scenes.
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Wednesday, that preconditions are in place to find a solution to the long-standing dispute over the name.
Speaking to Euronews, he said that in 2018, some preconditions have been created so that we can be optimistic that we will be able to find a mutually acceptable solution in the name issue, as the neighbouring country has retreated from some extreme positions it had adopted in the past, he was quoted as saying.
On Tuesday, FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expressed optimism that the name issue will be resolved in the first six months of the year.
“For our part, we are ready for a substantial and true engagement into resolving the name issue in the first six months of this year. I am convinced that it is possible to find a solution, but of course it is also necessary to encounter readiness from the other side,” Zaev said.
On Thursday in Athens, a ministerial meeting is taking place to strategize Greece’s approach to the talks on the name dispute that will take place in New York on January 19, under the auspices of the the UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.
It is also reported that FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani will visit Athens early next week for meetings with the Greek leadership.
At the same time, Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA colleagues are trying to convince their junior partner in government Panos Kammenos, to drop his uncompromising stance on the issue.
Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks party (ANEL) has maintained that he will not approve of a compromise solution that would include the name ‘Macedonia’.
The government hopes that Kammenos will not trigger a governmental and political crisis and moderate his stance.