A four-page written reply by Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis to a letter from her Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milososki has been delivered, Greece's foreign ministry confirmed.
The replying letter was signed on March 24 and delivered on March 27 2009.
Milsososki, in his letter to Bakoyannis in mid-March, asked for the two countries to resume political dialogue and agree on some steps to improve bilateral relations.
Milososki proposed a Macedonian-Greek declaration of friendship, good-neighbourly relations and co-operation, the setting up of a bilateral joint committee on education and history and a framework proposal for improving bilateral relations.
"I am firmly convinced that by accepting of these three initiatives, both governments will send a strong message about their strong commitment and constructive approach to the ongoing talks between the Republic of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia held under brokerage of the United Nations, which are aimed at overcoming the name differences," Milososki said in the letter.
Athens and Skopje are locked in a prolonged dispute about the use of the name Macedonia. Greece objects to the use of the name by the former Yugoslav republic, saying that it is historically inappropriate and is used to back up Macedonia's territorial claims in Greece. Greece has blocked Skopje's Nato ambitions and has said that it will block Macedonia's EU aspirations while the name dispute remains unresolved. Skopje has said it will take Athens to court, alleging that the 2008 veto by Greece of an invitation to Macedonia to join Nato is a violation of a bilateral interim accord.
A Greek foreign ministry spokesperson said that in her reply, Bakoyannis had emphasised that "all these years, Greece has been pursuing and adhering to good neighbourly relations with sincere will, in deeds and not just in words, and it has been making efforts towards finding a solution on the name issue.
"Another point mentioned in the minister's letter to her counterpart is that what is needed are deeds rather than words, as words are mostly aimed at creating impressions; specific actions are needed towards resolving the name issue that is at the heart of our relations and the problems that we are facing," the spokesperson said.
As to Milososki's reference to committees, the spokesperson said that in her reply, Bakoyannis made it clear "that history is well known and it cannot be the subject of any
negotiations or committees".
"On the issue of a committee on improving the prevailing climate and developing bilateral relations, Ms. Bakoyannis stresses that all this can be ensured through tangible respect for fundamental principles, good neighbourly relations, and anything that is governed by provisions on bilateral relations and articles of the Interim Accord," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that, with regard to the name issue, "it is certain that the pending name issue, in conjunction with the handlings and policy of Skopje's incumbent government - that is, its extreme stances, fanatical positions, and intolerant views - are having a negative impact on the relations of the two countries not just on regional cooperation but, most of all, on the neighbouring country's European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Given all this, resolving the name issue will be a catalyst for positive changes."