The Greek ambassador denounced Macedonia for spreading “hostile propaganda,” after the Macedonian foreign minister criticized Greece in an ongoing dispute over the formal name of Greece’s northern neighbor.
Ambassador Alexandros Mallias this week told Embassy Row that Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki angered Greece in an interview last week with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
“To my regret, our northern neighbor has abandoned a policy of good neighborly relations with Greece and has adopted a policy of hostile propaganda and a negative stance on the name issue,” Mr. Mallias said.
He also complained that Macedonia includes a 19th-century map in its military academy manual that shows Macedonia encompassing the entire region of northern Greece, also known as Macedonia.
The dispute over the name has ancient roots and strikes at the heart of Greek culture. The Greek region was named after Philip II of Macedon, who extended his kingdom into northern Greece. His son was the famous Alexander the Great, who exported Greek culture through his vast conquests.
The country of Macedonia, which also had ancient roots, gained its modern independence after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. However, Greece objected to the new nation using the name Macedonia. The country was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM.
Mr. Mallias said Greece has been in extended negotiations with Macedonia to reach a compromise over the name. Greece accepted a proposal by a U.S. mediator, who suggested the country include the name of its capital and be known as the “Republika Makedonija-Skopje.” Macedonia rejected the proposal.
Mr. Milososki last week insisted that his country has the right to be known by the name it gave itself, the Republic of Macedonia, calling the name “the cornerstone of our identity.” He said nearly 120 countries — including the United States, Russia and China — refer to his nation as the Republic of Macedonia.
Mr. Mallias, however, pointed out that in all international organizations, from the United Nations to the European Union, the nation is referred to as FYROM.
Despite the Bush administration’s decision to call it Macedonia, the U.S. House of Representatives is circulating a petition with 62 sponsors so far criticizing Macedonia for acts that “constitute a breach of the FYROM’s international obligations” under the U.N. accord that admitted the nation.
“Greece has very important bipartisan support in Congress,” the ambassador said.
Mr. Mallias said his government will oppose any effort by Macedonia to join NATO or the European Union until the name issue is settled.
“No Greek parliament, no Greek politician would accept them under the ‘Republic of Macedonia,’ ” he said.
Saluting the admiral