NATO’s Stoltenberg urges ‘flexibility’ to facilitate solution of FYROM name issue

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday urged “flexibility” so that a solution can be found in the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that will open the way for FYROM to join NATO.

“For this reason, I am appealing that they show flexibility for the resolution of the issue,” he said.

Stoltenberg had been asked whether FYROM will receive an invitation to join NATO during a press conference held after the NATO defence ministers’ meeting. He repeated NATO’s 2008 decision that FYROM will only join the Alliance once the name issue has been resolved in a way that is mutually acceptable to both sides, pointing out that this has not been possible until now.

“I hope that the new initiatives will lead to a mutually acceptable solution,” he added, noting that the issue was discussed during his talks with FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his government during Stoltenberg’s recent visit to Skopje. According to the Secretary-General, they had “clearly” stated their intention to exhibit “flexibility” so that a solution might be found.

He also cited his recent talks on the issue with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and noted the “new proposals” now put forward by the United Nations.

Stoltenberg said he would be hesitant in making conjectures that an agreement will be reached, given that the issue had remained unresolved for more than 20 years despite the ongoing UN process for its resolution. He expressed hope, nevertheless, that a solution will be found that will remove the obstacles to FYROM joining NATO and said that he had discussed the issue with Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos.