- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

FYROM in NATO?

Macedonia’s foreign minister yesterday described a way his country and Greece can avoid a diplomatic showdown that could undermine next week’s NATO summit, the largest gathering of the Western alliance.

Antonio Milososki told Embassy Row that Macedonia could adopt a fallback position and accept an invitation to join NATO under the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the cumbersome jumble of letters under which it was admitted to the United Nations 15 years ago.

“For the sake of the stability of the region and for the future of NATO, I think our government would be prepared to accept such an invitation,” he said in a phone interview from the Macedonian capital, Skopje.

Mr. Milososki said Greece agreed in 1995 not to block Macedonia from entering international institutions under the name of FYROM. However, a Greek Embassy spokesman yesterday said that agreement is based on the establishment of “good neighborly relations” between the two nations. He also said that Greece wants a “resolution” of the name dispute before the summit.

Over the years, Macedonia abandoned the label of FYROM, leading to strong Greek objections over the use of a name that for centuries has been associated with northern Greece.

Athens has threatened to veto any invitation unless Macedonia adopts a name that is acceptable to Greece. Macedonian and Greek envoys are scheduled to meet today for a further round of U.N.-mediated talks. Mr. Milososki will have another chance to talk with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at a meeting of the European Union in Slovenia on Friday. The NATO summit begins April 2 in Romania.

Mr. Milososki said his government has no illusions about today’s New York meeting.

“We do not have great expectations,” he said.

Macedonia’s envoy, Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov, “will behave in such a manner so as not to give anyone a pretext to misuse bilateral issues [between Macedonia and Greece] in order to block Macedonian-NATO integration or obstruct NATO enlargement in this part of Europe.”

The 26-nation alliance is considering offering membership invitations to Albania and Croatia, as well as Macedonia.

“We realize that Greece will try to misuse its power and position in NATO,” Mr. Milososki said.

The United States, Britain, Canada, China and Russia are among about 100 countries that recognize Macedonia by its chosen name, while France, Germany and other nations refer to it as FYROM.

Mrs. Bakoyannis has criticized Macedonia for its “intransigent stance” on the negotiations and its “irredentist and nationalistic logic.”

“As long as there is no such solution, there will be an insurmountable obstacle to FYROM’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions,” she said after a March 6 preliminary summit meeting in Brussels.

Belarus staff cut

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus yesterday cut its diplomatic staff by nearly half, as the State Department in Washington accused Belarus of taking the “path of confrontation and isolation” in its latest diplomatic dispute with the United States.

The State Department expressed its “great regret” by the staff cut but said the reduction was made only at the “insistence of the government of Belarus,” which the Bush administration has called Europe’s last dictatorship. Earlier this month, Belarus demanded the departure of Ambassador Karen Stewart, who left the capital, Minsk, on March 12. She was one of the diplomatic corps’ biggest critics of the human rights abuses of President Alexander Lukashenko.

“The unfortunate actions by the Belarus authorities demonstrate that Belarus has taken a path of confrontation and isolation rather than a path of engagement and democratic reform,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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