Kotzias shuts down Dimitrov: Change your name, then NATO

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We are pleased to see our neighbor finding the path to stability, said Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias after Wednesday’s meeting with Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov in Athens, saluting “the friendly commitment expressed at all levels, starting from Prime Minister Zaev”.

“I told Dimitrov at the meeting and now to the public – Greece supports the territorial integrity of our southern neighbor, its stability, sovereignty, non-interference of third parties in its internal affairs and I would urge them to stay away from our bilateral relations. We were against any sanctions imposed on our neighboring country, we have a clear strategy and we do not back down”, said Kotzias.

He voiced conviction that the development of bilateral relations and mutual trust will facilitate talks over open issues, with both sides prepared to talks on these issues once time has matured.

“We believe that promoting the culture of consensus and understanding on the Balkans in general will facilitate our relations with all countries and contribute to the development of a more democratic, more European politically-cultured states”, added FM Kotzias.

He stressed that he wants to see Macedonia join diverse international organizations and Greece is open for support to these efforts, but once the name issue is solved.

“This is the condition and I believe we must and can work on reaching a good compromise that benefits both sides. Let’s contribute and help our citizens and societies to understand that we can achieve more if we go beyond the historical obstacles and do not insist on conflicts that take us nowhere”, said Kotzias.

He said bilateral relations must move forward and friendship between the two nations should be strengthened.

“Greece wants to see the entire Western Balkan region become part of the Euro-Atlantic system. The question is how much these countries want this. They cannot expect us to want this more than they do. They have to want it more than us”, added Kotzias.

He recalled that in February 2015 had told the European partners that fyRoM should not be treated in a way that teaches it against reaching compromises, because this would reflect on its internal developments and international relations.

“And then came the crisis in the country, which is not owed to the Bucharest decision, but from the fact that the previous government did not want to compromise, turning the name issue from a geographic problem into an identity problem. Regarding fyRoM, we want the country to join NATO and EU and can achieve this by finding a name compromise, sign a new agreement in the UN and afterwards go to Brussels with this agreement”, highlighted Kotzias.

According to Greece’s official position, the move by Athens to veto Macedonia’s NATO accession in 2008 cannot be considered an act of hostility.

“What followed afterwards is another thing, but the act itself cannot be considered one of hostility. Each side fights to defend its own position within the foreign policy-making in the way they know best. I do not think that positions of my friends on the north are hostile and please do not consider our activities as being hostile. Greece wants to help our neighbor and despite the crisis you have been through, you are one of the strongest countries on the Balkans. According to me, if you are the strongest, this means you have more obligations, not more rights. I hope we will find a way, a joint path leading to a mutually acceptable compromise, one that enables further nurturing of bilateral relations”, underlined the Greek FM.

He added that today’s discussions would not solve the name issue, but aim to build a positive climate.

“We have the positive framework for the issue’s settlement and I once again would like to thank Nikola (Dimitrov) for this positive climate. It is not sufficient only to have good intentions, but efforts are required for a solution”, said Kotzias.

Pertaining to the confidence-building measures, he emphasized their significance and said talks tackled oil pipeline, gas pipeline, railway route, exchange between diplomatic academies, cooperation among universities, trade, including a business forum to be held in Athens in the second half of 2017.

“Good intentions do not replace negotiations, but make talks more pleasant. We are pleased for the progress that our northern neighbor has made in a very short period and agreed with Dimitrov that parties should undertake all steps possible towards drafting the best measures for further development of our cooperation”, concluded Kotzias.

FM Dimitrov says Athens visit aims at securing support from Greece

My main message today is – I am here to seek support, and it matters less who will be the winner, who will be more skillful in presenting arguments. My message is – I am seeking support from the Greek government and the public in Greece, what we need now is an encouragement to walk tall on the path we want to pursue, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov stated after a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in Athens.

“We have no hidden agendas and we want to be friends with your country,” Dimitrov told a news conference.

He thanked Minister Kotzias for inviting him and for his ‘warm welcome.’

“We’ve held open and cordial talks, first meeting tet-a-tet and then we were joined by our delegations. I’ve informed the Minister about the priorities of the new government. We’ve endured some difficult years and we are strongly determined – regardless of whether we will have doors towards a European future opened for us or not – to work hard for strong institutions and rule of law, which will be beyond the will of politicians, and not vice versa,” stated Dimitrov.

As regards the country’s foreign policy, he said, our priorities will be focused on reviving the EU and NATO integration process and also on making Macedonia a better neighbor and a closer friend of all the countries in the immediate neighborhood and beyond, across the region.

“I believe diplomats are tasked with solving issues, opening doors, building bridges. Thus I have made my first official visit to Greece,” the FM noted.

He said he strived to build ‘a fresh, positive image’ in the region through concrete steps.

“I will continue to present arguments, in theory and in practice, that it is in the interest of our bigger and more influential neighbor the country to establish an European-like democracy, which is going to join NATO and launch EU membership talks. And I’m confident that you have many advantages and that unlocking the path could contribute to, and help close the main issue,” stated Dimitrov.

As regards the confidence-building measures, the Macedonian FM called them ‘interesting and useful’ adding that the two ministers in the meeting had add a few elements.

“I’m confident that step by step we will create conditions, we’ve even discussed the opening of a border crossing. I hope one day in the future, there wouldn’t even be a border, literally speaking, if we were to join the EU,” Minister Dimitrov concluded.

Moreover, FM Kotzias said Greece was open to support the efforts of Macedonia to join international organizations on the condition the countries settled the name issue.

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