- Title: Renewed efforts to solve Macedonia name dispute shadowed by opposition
- Date: 25th January 2018
- Summary: THESSALONIKI, GREECE (JANUARY 20, 2018) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF STATUE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT IN THE CITY OF THESSALONIKI AMIDST CLOUDY SKIES
- Embargoed: 8th February 2018 10:54
- Keywords: Alexander the Great Macedonia name Thessaloniki Pella Greece United Nations Skopje Athens
- Location: ATHENS, PELLA AND THESSALONIKI, GREECE/ SKOPJE, MACEDONIA/ UNITED NATIONS
- City: ATHENS, PELLA AND THESSALONIKI, GREECE/ SKOPJE, MACEDONIA/ UNITED NATIONS
- Country: Greece
- Topics: Diplomacy/Foreign Policy,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0087ZM1A9Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:An 11-metre high statue stands on a pedestal in central Skopje. Erected in 2011 by the previous government, it is called the "Warrior on Horse", and resembles Alexander the Great. It is one of the monuments that irked Greeks, among other monuments and symbols, in a 25-year row with their northern neighbour over the name Macedonia.
Greece has blocked the country's bid for membership of the European Union and NATO, and due to the dispute it entered the United Nations in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), following its independence in 1991 after the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Skopje residents are eager to join the international bodies, but have reservations about changing the name.
Alexander the Great was born in Pella, the capital of the ancient Macedonian kingdom, in the northern Greek province of Macedonia, where the tombs of the royal family, including his father King Philip II also lie. Through a military campaign that reached Asia and Africa, Alexander created one of the largest empires before his death in 323 BC.
Greece says use of the name Macedonia implies territorial claims to this Greek province and of the ancient Greek kingdom of Alexander. They perceive the issue to be an attempt to usurp their history and culture, and do not want a solution that will include the word "Macedonia".
A demonstration in the city of Thessaloniki, in the Greek province of Macedonia, on January 21, drew hundreds of thousands from various parts of Greece. It was one of the biggest protests in recent years, and more are planned in the coming weeks.
Ongoing talks hosted by United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz over the years bore no fruit. But the new government in Skopje of Zoran Zaev has signalled a willingness for a solution, and the UN hosted a new round of talks on January 17. Following the meeting Nimetz said that is was unrealistic to expect a solution that did not include the word "Macedonia".
On Wednesday (January 24), Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met Zaev on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Zaev said Macedonia will change the name of its airport and roads - named after Alexander the Great - to help resolve the dispute.
In previous meetings both sides have spoken of "commitments" and "opportunities". Greek government officials have suggested that Athens would try to focus on an agreement that calls for a compound name.
The main Greek New Democracy opposition party accused the government of using the negotiations for political gain, saying it could not be trusted to reach an acceptable solution.
Analysts say the longer the dispute continues the more difficult it will be to solve.
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