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NATO chief to visit Greece over Macedonia name spat

NATO chief to visit Greece over Macedonia name spat

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will visit Athens Monday to discuss a name dispute between Greece and neighbor Macedonia that could block efforts by the former Yugoslav republic to join the military alliance.
Greece's Foreign Ministry announced the visit Wednesday, and said de Hoop Scheffer would meet Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
Greece is threatening to veto Macedonia's effort to join NATO during an alliance summit in April, unless a solution is reached.
Athens argues the name Macedonia could imply territorial claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia _ which the government in Skopje denies.
"This is not some kind of sentimental issue for Greece, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Wednesday. He described the name issue as "a vehicle" for activities aimed at potentially annexing the Greek territory.
Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski rejected the claim.
"This name issue cannot be classified as a security issue in any regard. It is not connected with our EU perspective or with the NATO perspective," Crvenkovski said while visiting Brussels
He said there could be "no imposed solution" or timeline for a deal.
Crvenkovski met EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who said he hoped Greece would not use its veto powers.
"I don't like vetoes ... This is a moment in which solutions can be found and I hope very much that a solution can be found," Solana said.
But Koumoutsakos indicated any solution would have to be implemented _ not just agreed upon _ before the veto threat is lifted.
"No solution means no invitation (for membership)," the spokesman said. "Accession requires unanimity from all the members of (NATO). There is no doubt that Greece will not relinquish any of its membership rights."
On Friday, representatives at the United Nations from Greece and Macedonia are due to meet in New York to continue negotiations.
A special U.N. envoy, earlier this month, proposed five alternative names which Macedonia could consider adopting. Under the plan, leaked to a Greek newspaper, the names are: Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, New Republic of Macedonia, and Republic of Upper Macedonia.
Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
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Associated Press Writer Paul Ames contributed to this report from Brussels.


Updated : 2021-06-23 14:05 GMT+08:00