Senior Macedonia official in Greece for name dispute talks

January 9, 2018

Deputy Prime Minister of Macedonia Bujar Osmani center, walks downtown Athens as he arrives for a meeting with Greek Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Osmani is in Greece as the two countries have agreed to resume efforts to try and resolve a long-standing name dispute that began after the tiny Balkan republic gained independence from Yugoslavia. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Macedonia’s deputy prime minister visited neighboring Greece Tuesday in an effort to resolve a long-standing dispute over the tiny Balkan republic’s name that has blocked its membership of NATO and closer integration with the European Union.

Bujar Osmani met with government officials in Athens as the two governments pledged to try to resolve the dispute before the summer.

Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. But Athens says its name implies a territorial claim over the neighboring Greek region of Macedonia, and is seeking a so-called “composite name” solution.

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Tuesday that the talks were made possible after the Macedonian government abandoned “extreme positions,” but did not elaborate.

In a brief meeting with reporters at an Athens hotel, Osmani said he could not comment on whether his country would have to change its constitution to allow a name change, or to news reports that the two sides were considering the name “New Macedonia.”

“I cannot say anything at the moment about the position of the two delegations,” he said.

“It’s for the negotiators to discuss these issues, and when we achieve common ground we will go public.”

Several dozen lawmakers and supporters of the extreme right Golden Dawn party gathered outside the Greek Foreign Ministry to protest the meeting, many shouting obscenities and chanting “traitors, traitors.”

No arrests were reported.

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