The Greek Press Today
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01 March, 2008
The US state department on Thursday reiterated its position of encouraging the governments of Greece and FYROM to work with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz towards finding a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue, which it considers important for both countries.
Asked to comment on the new round of UN-brokered name talks to begin in New York on Friday, with separate meetings between the UN secretary general's special mediator on the name issue Matthew Nimetz and the Greek and FYROM negotiators, Ambassadors Adamantios Vassilakis and Nikolai Dimitrov, respectively, and given the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest in early April, US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said during a regular press briefing that the US position on the issue was well-known.
"Certainly, we want to encourage both the Greek and 'Macedonian' governments to work through the good offices of Mr. Nimetz to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion on the name issue. And that is something that we believe is important for both countries," he said.
"In terms of the NATO summit and any decisions that might be made there, obviously, we’ll just have to see what happens. As I mentioned yesterday, Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice will be going to the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting (on Thursday), which is something of a prelude to the summit itself. And I’m sure there will be a variety of discussions there about the full issues on NATO’s agenda, including Kosovo and the ongoing NATO military operations in that country; Afghanistan, where of course, NATO is, as just mentioned, rather heavily engaged in leading the International Security Assistance Force; and certainly, internal subjects related to NATO, including the possibilities for NATO enlargement and the course that various countries are charting will be on the agenda, too. But I think we’re quite a bit away from a decision on that," Casey continued.
"Greece is an important friend and a NATO ally for the United States," Casey said, adding that "we also have good relations with the Government of 'Macedonia'. And for us, we think this is an issue that clearly is important for the two countries, and that’s why we certainly hope that they will be able to work together through the UN and through Mr. Nimetz to come to a resolution."
Asked whether there had been any recent communication between the US Department of State, Athens and Skopje, Casey noted that Rice had met recently, over the past 2-3 weeks, with both the Greek and FYROM foreign ministers, and recalled that the relevant State Department announcement had said that Rice "very strongly encouraged both of them to work with Mr. Nimetz to reach a resolution of this.
"This is an issue that certainly comes up on a regular basis in our discussions with both Greeks and 'Macedonians', but obviously, the message remains what the Secretary said to those senior officials," Casey said, adding that he was "not aware of any new particular high-level contacts on the subject, though".
Meanwhile, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, during a briefing on Thursday at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, said he understood the sensitivity of the Greek people and government on the FYROM name issue, given his four-year tenure as US Ambassador to Greece (1997-2001).
Asked to comment on the new round of FYROM name talks to open on Friday in New York, Burns said that "having been American Ambassador to Greece for four years, I certainly understand, and our government understands, the great sensitivity within Greece, among the Greek people, inside the Greek Government about this issue".
"We realize its importance, and that’s why we’ve put our faith in Ambassador Nimetz, the United Nations mediator. We fully support him, and we hope that he can be successful in working out an arrangement that would be acceptable both to Greece and to 'Macedonia', snd so we hope very much that will take place, Burns said, adding that "it’s an important question, because we have a NATO summit in the first week of April in Bucharest, where this issue, or at least the issue of 'Macedonia’s' candidacy to become a member of NATO, will be on the table".
"We hope therefore that there can be an arrangement worked out before that summit," Burns said.
Asked how he assessed Greece's right to exercise a veto, Burns replied: "I don’t think it would be helpful for me to comment, to give public advice to the Greek Government. I’ve tried always never to give public advice to any government."
"I think that I would rather accentuate the positive here, and that is that the United Nations mediator, a very experienced international arbiter, Matt Nimetz, has, of course, put several ideas in front of both governments, and we hope that one of them might be acceptable to both. If that’s the case, we’ll have a deal; we’ll never have to then encounter the worst-case scenario that you have put before us. So I’ll decline very politely to answer that question," Burns said.
To a question on what the US position would be in the event that the Serbs in northern Kosovo declare independence from Kosovo, Burns replied that the US is "absolutely opposed to partition of Kosovo. And the great majority of countries around the world are not going to stand for that."
In that framework, Burns said that "my European Union colleague, Peter Feith, had a very strong statement this morning, as head of the EU mission, saying that we would not support and tolerate any move towards partition, either a de facto partition, or creeping partition by trying to take over the United Nations-administered institutions north of the Ibar River, or de jure partition. We will not support it."
"I think what’s being lost in all of the words coming out of Belgrade...is this: They can’t forget the history of what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s. And it really is quite curious to see this continued, I must say, invective from the government in Belgrade about what’s happening in Kosovo, when their predecessor government, in the name of the country, marched into Kosovo in 1999 and tried to drive a million Kosovar Albanian Muslims out of the country, or what happened, of course, in Bosnia a few years earlier. That’s the history," Burns said.
"Because of that history, the United Nations took Kosovo away from Serbia in June of 1999, and the United Nations has administered the province since then. And now the United States and all of Europe, with very few exceptions, is strongly supporting the independence of Kosovo. With good reason, because we haven’t forgotten the history of what happened there," he continued.
Burns further said that it was "not convincing" and "hypocritical" for the Serb foreign minister "to go in our newspapers, on our media, and to act as if nothing happened in 1998 and 1999 when those terrible injustices were suffered by the Kosovar Albanian Muslim population. In remembering that history, we are seeking a stable Balkans.", and particularly noted "that very artful but not very convincing op-ed (opinion editorial) by the Serb Foreign Minister in The New York Times yesterday".
"We are seeking an independent Kosovo, to support it, that will one day have an option to join the EU and NATO," Burns stressed, adding that the US strongly supported Kosovo independence.
The US official also said that the US wanted a "close relationship with Serbia. "Serbia is an important country. I suppose when passions cool, that relationship between Europe and Serbia, the United States and Serbia, will continue to develop," he said.
"In the meantime, we hold the Serb Government responsible for what happens in the streets of Belgrade; we have been assured by that government that there will be no repetition of the attacks that we saw against many embassies last week. We will hold the Serb Government to that commitment to us.
Source: Athens News Agency