Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov, the foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), met in Thessaloniki today to lay the final groundwork for a 17 January meeting in New York convened by the UN’s veteran special representative on the FYROM naming dispute, Matthew Nimetz.

According to a report in the northern Greece news website, the meeting was held in “utter secrecy” at the northern port city’s historic Macedonia Palace hotel, and there were no statements before or afterwards. The meeting had been announced by the Greek foreign ministry yesterday.

Nimetz’s last meeting with the two sides was on 12 December, in Brussels, where the UN envoy announced intensification of the negotiations and expressed optimism for a settlement in 2018.
It is unclear if Nimetz will table a package proposal this time around, as he has repeatedly over the years.

A nexus of related issues

Aside from the naming issue, the Greek side has for years linked a settlement to firm guarantees that Skopje will abandon its decades-long irredentist claims against Greece, and to a clear agreement on the issues of language and ethnicity that divide the parties.

The latter aspects of a solution have not been discussed publicly by the parties, but an Albanian news site reported recently that a package deal is in the works that will address all three issues.

However, on 9 January, FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister Bujan Osmani warned that “whatever is heard in the news media about various names or proposals is mere speculation”.

Osmani expressed hopes that Nimetz will table a proposal, which some observers believe likely.

New Democracy criticizes ‘secret diplomacy’

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis charged that the government is improperly engaging in secret diplomacy.

“I want to call upon the government to responsibly inform the opposition on the major issue of the name of Skopje, and to finally cease its secret diplomacy,” Mitsotakis said.

“I also call upon the government to stop dividing the Greek people. It must stop identifying people, who have a particular sensitivity about the Skopje naming issue, with the far right.

Such politics do not help us reach a national understanding and consensus, elements that are necessary in addressing a critical issue of national import,” the main opposition leader stressed.

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