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FM: 'Positive response' over FYROM in UK

07/11/2007 13:28
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday said Greece's positions regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has met with a "positive response" in London. She was speaking after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Tuesday morning, which both sides described as "excellent".

In statements after the meeting, Miliband noted that Greece's concerns over the issue of FYROM's name were understandable and said that it was very important to find a solution that respected these concerns.

Asked about the prospect of a Greek veto against FYROM joining NATO, Miliband replied that Greece was able to fully exercise its rights as a NATO member.

Bakoyannis insisted on the positive approach taken by the Greek side, and underlined the benefits that would be gained by its neighbour to the north, but also the improvement in bilateral and regional relations that would result if the outstanding dispute were resolved.

"Greece presents a positive proposal. The Greek state steadfastly believes that problems should be dealt with and not covered up. This is our proposal today and I think this finds great support among friends and partners," she stressed.

Miliband also underlined, in response to questions, that Britain's position regarding the Cyprus issue had not changed and that London steadfastly supported the July 8 process. The questions had referred to an agreement signed between the UK and Turkey in which the illegal regime in the occupied northern third of Cyprus, which is not recognised by any country apart from Turkey, was referred to as the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus".

On her part, Bakoyannis stressed the Greek side's satisfaction at the statements made by Miliband regarding the UK-Turkey agreement and the UK's desire to contribute to a solution of the Cyprus issue based on the July 8 process, adding that "our support for the process of July 8, which is also supported by the European Union, is exceptionally important" and noting that Athens had "observed foot-dragging" on the Turkish side.

Referring to talks with her British counterpart on Kosovo, Bakoyannis said they had both noted that this was a European issue needing a common European policy that would "indicate that Europe was taking responsibility for one of the most difficult problems that it faces".

The two ministers also agreed on the need for deeper cooperation on major global challenges like climate change and a joint approach to new threats created by environmental problems.

During her visit to London, Bakoyannis met with the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and thanked them for their tremendous and ongoing efforts over the past years, stressing that Athens' goal was to reunite the Marbles being held at the British Museum in London with those in Greece.

"They do not only belong to Greece but the world has a right to see them united at the new Acropolis Museum," she said.

In Lisbon, meanwhile, speaking on the sidelines of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership's foreign affairs conference, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis repeated Greece's steadfast support for the European prospects of the Balkans provided that the countries in the region complied with the conditions and criteria set by the EU. He made the statement in a comment on the European Commission's report on FYROM’s progress toward accession.

Valinakis clarified that Greece did not welcome the negative report on FYROM's progress since "we want these countries to comply with the conditions, chief of which is good neighbour relations".

"The Greek government has supported the European prospects of all our neighbours and wants the conversion of the Balkans into a European neighbourhood. In order for this to happen, however, the candidate states must comply with the specific terms and criteria set on the part of the European Union. Today's report by the European Commission exactly shows the way, the way of such compliance, and certifies that this compliance has not existed up until today and, thus, in its own way is very simply telling Skopje that they cannot progress toward the European prospects that they desire," Valinakis said.

Regarding FYROM's stance, Valinakis said Athens was anxious that Skopje understand that "obstinacy would not lead to a solution of the problem" and was not part of European culture, while also noting that the European Commission "rightly attributed crucial importance" to the good neighbour criterion in its report.

"We want our neighbours' European policy but our neighbours must respect all the criteria that have been set on the part of the EU and other organisations, when this concerns other organisations," the minister added.

Greece and FYROM recently considered a new round of negotiations to find a solution to their dispute over FYROM's use of the name "Republic of Macedonia", which Greece objects to on historical and political grounds. Athens says use of the name may give rise to future irredentist claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia, which shares a border with land-locked FYROM, while it also rejects as historically inaccurate attempts by certain circles of FYROM's Slavic population to claim association with the ancient Macedonian kingdom.