Greece and Skopje have taken “positive steps” towards solving the long-running name dispute, according to Athens’ foreign minister on Thursday.
Nikos Kotzias was speaking in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where he was hosted by FYROM foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov. Thursday’s meeting came amid Kotzias’ round of visits to western Balkan countries.
It also took place against a backdrop of internal strife for the government of FYROM premier Zoran Zaev, who narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in parliament called by opposition lawmakers.
Speaking to reporters in Ohrid, Kotzias said: “As you understand, the closer we come to solving all our issues, there are less and less issues left to talk about.
“But, they are the most difficult. We have made the positive steps that we have been able to do today and we always hope – both of us – to be able to do the big ones.”
“We try to solve problems created by other seasons and by others. But this is the job of diplomacy,” he added.
Dimitrov said the “sincere” talks had also included a discussion on the time framework and the next steps needed to reach agreement.
In Serbia on Wednesday, Kotzias ruled out what he called “rotten compromises” over FYROM’s name and changes to irredentist parts of its constitution.
Addressing reporters during a joint news conference with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, Kotzias dismissed what he called “rotten compromises but the kinds where both sides stand to gain”.
“And compromise means that both sides must realize that they cannot have everything, that both sides must have gains. I hope that this is understood by all sides in the negotiations and that we have good developments,” he added.
Skopje’s membership of the EU and NATO remains blocked over the name dispute the country has with Greece.
Kotzias and Dimitrov are expected to meet in Thessaloniki at a regional cross-border meeting in early May and again on May 11-12 in Sounion, near Athens.