US Diplomat: Only Athens and Skopje Can Strike Name Deal
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell told journalists in Skopje on Tuesday that the current conditions for reaching a compromise on the long-running name dispute between Macedonia and Greece are "better than they have ever been".
Mitchell added that "we want to make the best of those opportunities".
At a joint press conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the senior US diplomat commended booth Skopje and Athens for their recent steps towards finding a compromise which would unlock Macedonia's NATO and EU accession bids.
Mitchell said that the US takes a very active interest in resolving the issue, strategically and politically.
"So you will see the US strongly committed throughout this process, you'll see myself and the administration committed to helping both sides," he said.
"At the same time, we acknowledge that the only solution that's going to last is the one that the two parties are going to work out between themselves." He added.
Prime Minister Zaev said that he believes that Macedonia and Greece "are starting the final phase [of the name talks], which in the end will deliver a dignified solution to this issue".
The name dispute centres on Greece's insistence that the use of the word Macedonia implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.
Athens insists that a new name must be found that makes a clear distinction between the Greek province and the country.
As a result of the unresolved dispute, Greece blocked Macedonia's NATO membership in 2008. It has also blocked the start of Macedonia's EU accession talks, despite several positive annual reports from the European Commission on the country's progress.