In an effort to solve the long-running dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the senior United Nations envoy for talks between the now independent country and its southern neighbour, Greece, today outlined an intensified programme of both bilateral and mediated talks.
"Both Athens and Skopje have confirmed that they wish to achieve a mutually agreed solution to this issue through discussions under the Secretary-General's auspices," Special Representative Matthew Nimetz said in a statement, referring to the respective capitals.
"Such a solution, both agree, would resolve a difficult issue adversely affecting the region and the otherwise friendly relationship between two neighbouring States," he added.
The post of Special Representative of the Secretary-General in talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was established after the parties could not agree on the name of what had previously been one of Yugoslavia's six constituent republics before that country broke up in warfare beginning in 1991.
In 1993 the new state proposed Republic of Macedonia, saying the name did not imply any territorial or other aspirations whatsoever, but Greece objected, maintaining that Macedonia, the name of a historic part of ancient Greece, should not be included.
Since then the new state has been known officially at the UN as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In his statement Mr. Nimetz said both sides had strongly encouraged him to intensify his efforts based on the positions they have recently given him and he therefore, urged both Athens and Skopje to work with him through their established process, with a minimum of public statements, to determine how their differences can be bridged.
Discussions in future weeks will take place through discussions between himself and each of the parties separately as well as in more formal meetings involving both parties, he added.