24 April, 2008
The FYROM "name issue" and US policy in the western Balkans as well as energy issues were expectedly broached by former minister and top main opposition PASOK party MP Evangelos Venizelos during a meeting here with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza.
Venizelos, who is visiting Washington and New York on a private visit, referred to a "common front" by almost all political parties in Greece with regards to the "name issue". He also reportedly conveyed his view on Washington's stance vis-à-vis FYROM with a view to a future mutually acceptable solution.
Venizelos, who vied for PASOK's leadership last November, stressed that Greece has exercised a "positive pressure" on Skopje and is ready to offer "positive assistance" as soon as a solution is reached. A solution will open the way to FYROM's NATO membership and the acceleration of negotiations for its EU accession, since the land-locked country's size and type of economy will not translate into any burden for the Union.
He also underlined that the United States will have to clarify its policy in the western Balkans, particularly regarding Serbia, and take into serious consideration the Albanian minority in FYROM since it corresponds to 35 percent of the country's population. The Albanian minority is in favor of a composite name because, as Venizelos said, "citing the need for stability, it is more interested in the country's accession into the EU and NATO."
In terms of energy, Venizelos stated that they had a detailed discussion on the plans and construction course of the oil and natural gas pipeline projects, adding that Greece is in favor of alternative sources of energy even though its approach does not fully coincide with current US administration views.
"...They had a good discussion about some bilateral issues, including Mr. Bryza’s recent trip to Athens. I think they also did have an opportunity to touch on relations between Greece and the 'Republic of Macedonia' on the 'name issue' and otherwise had a good conversation about the general ... (issues) between the US and Greece," according to State Department spokesman deputy spokesman Tom Casey, who used the "constitutional name" favored by the neighbouring country, in response to a Greek reporter's question.
Venizelos also met with US House Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Source: Athens News Agency