FM Kotzias: Rally in Thessaloniki “will not influence negotiations” on FYROM name issue

The rally over the name of FYROM that took place in Thessaloniki on Sunday will not influence the negotiations with FYROM, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said in Brussels on Monday.

The rally, around the main Aristotelous Square in the northern city, had an attendance of around 90,000 people, according to Greek Police estimates.

In statements following the conclusion of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, Kotzias said, “The turnout at the rally was an expression of the democratic function of Greek democracy, and an expression of distress for many Greeks who sometimes wrongly equate negotiations over the name with the fate of Greek Macedonia, and it was a rally that further develops the forms of public discourse, sometimes rightly, sometimes not.”

The foreign minister noted, however, “I do not believe that the rally exerts any influence over the negotiations for the issue of FYROM’s name and irredentism.” He added that “any expression that condemns irredentism serves supportively,” but in terms of the name issue, “this will be resolved on the basis of future prospects of stability and security in the area, the role of Greek diplomacy, and the need for Greece to play a leading role in the area.”

On relations with Albania, Kotzias said a great step forward had been taken, and this progress would be confirmed by Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Edi Rama when they meet at the World Economic Forum at Davos (Jan. 23-26). The Albanian government had the courage to vote two laws activating an agreement of 2009 to begin the process of exhumations of Greek officers who died during World War II in Albania, Kotzias said.