Greece and FYROM closer to solution than at any time in the past 10 years, Merkel says

At no other time in the past 10 years have Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia been closer to finding a solution to the FYROM name dispute, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday, after a meeting here with FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

She stressed that Berlin will contribute to this in every way that it can and encouraged the two sides to take the necessary steps.

Merkel noted that the name issue was among the matters discussed in relation to FYROM and, among others, had blocked the country’s efforts to join NATO at the summit in Bucharest.

“I am very happy and relieved that, with the Zaev government, mobility has returned to the talks. I spoke yesterday with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. There is rapprochement on both sides. The problem has not been solved yet but, on our side, I made it clear that we greatly desire a solution and will to help and contribute wherever we can, to encourage the two negotiating parties to take the necessary steps. I would say that in the past 10 years a solution has never been as close as now and it would certainly be very good if the existing difficulties could be bridged,” Merkel said.

Such an outcome would mean a lot for FYROM but also for Greece, she added, since there were several disputes in the region and every dispute that was resolved was a good thing.

Replying to questions during a joint press conference with Zaev, Merkel supported finding a solution but stressed that applying pressure to one side or the other during negotiations was likely to do more harm than good. She also expressed her confidence in both goverments and noted that compromises were always painful but must also work.

“My attitude is that the problem should be solved and pressure during a negotiation is often not especially helpful. I have the impression that, for the first time in a long time, both sides are interested in resolving the issue and this is a good initial condition…I have confidence in both sides that they will handle this desire to solve the problem with great care and caution…the high art of diplomacy is to ‘find the eye of the needle’ and this has to be done confidentially, not through press conferences,” she said, responding to questions.

Zoran noted that his country is ready to do its part in order to join the EU and NATO, emphasising the great importance of Germany’s support.