Greece's foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 23 2011.
Athens and Skopje have used the annual general debate at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly to again raise the issue of their dispute about the use of the name Macedonia.
The dispute dates from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and has defied years of attempts by the UN to resolve the standoff between Athens and Skopje.
Greece objects to Skopje’s use of the name Republic of Maceonia as historically unjustified and has expressed concern that it could be used to reinforce territorial claims in northern Greece, which has a province named Macedonia.
Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski, addressing the UN General Assembly, described his country’s name dispute with Greece as "utterly incomprehensible," the UN News Centre said.
Gruevski told the UN that a solution must be found that recognises "our commitment, desire and determination for coexistence, community, individuality and identity."
He said that "we do not like being in the position of having our name and identity objected to by one country and we certainly did not ask for it."
"Imagine the virtual state that my citizens find themselves in – blackmailed, with a blocked development and perspective – because of the blockages from our southern neighbour to enter the Euro-Atlantic institutions, just because for what we are," Gruevski said.
"I ask for your support to end this, for your support to allow us to be what we are, without hurting anybody, without inflicting damage on anyone, with understanding, tolerance and respect for our neighbours, friends, for all of you, with respect for our neighbour with whom we have this dispute and understanding of its fears. We do not bear any pretensions, nor do we have any intentions to monopolise the term Macedonia in this case."
Gruevski – who discussed the issue in a meeting on September 24 2011 with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – told the General Assembly that "131 countries around the world have made a choice to recognise us by what we call ourselves – the Republic of Macedonia."
Gruevski called for greater efforts to be devoted to preventive diplomacy – both as a theoretical concept, and as a means for stopping conflicts.
"The majority of the conflicts do not happen overnight; they are predictable, and so there are realistic opportunities for an effective diplomatic engagement towards their prevention."
Greece’s foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis told the General Assembly that a "fair compromise" with a geographic qualifier is the most appropriate solution to the dispute.
Lambrinidis said the dispute "is not really, and never has been, a ‘name’ issue per se," but instead an effort to "put behind us notions of irredentism, of attempting to rewrite history and borders."
"Greece believes and has repeatedly stated that the solution lies in a fair compromise, in a name with a geographical qualifier, since Macedonia is a geographic region that overlaps the territory of more than one country. And that this name must be used in relation to everyone," Lambrinidis said.
"We want to resolve this issue so that we can finally realise the huge potential of our relationship, on the basis of openness and honesty. It is high time to reach a successful and mutually beneficial conclusion," he said.