Thursday, 20 September 2018 | News today: 18

NATO accession hinging on name deal!

The final declaration of the NATO summit in Brussels this week is expected to state that the accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the North Atlantic Alliance hinges on its ratification of the name deal signed with Athens last month, according to a draft seen by Kathimerini. The conditionality will, reportedly, be noted in articles 59 and 60 of the declaration, Kathimerini writes.

Government sources say that Athens and its partners are on the same page on this matter, while the issue was also discussed during separate phone calls placed last week by US Vice President Mike Pence to prime ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, in Athens and Skopje respectively.

Given the road map to accession, Zaev is expected to set in motion within the next 10 days the procedures that will lead to a referendum.

In an interview on Thursday with Greek state broadcaster ERT, Zaev said that the referendum will be held on any Sunday between September 23 and October 7.

According to reports, Zaev’s government has decided, ahead of the referendum, to run on a platform stating that without the ratification of name deal signed with Greece at its Prespes Lake district in June, FYROM will not be able to join the alliance.

Zaev’s aides believe that the deal will be approved in the referendum by at least half of FYROM’s population.

However, despite Zaev’s efforts to get the deal ratified, the country’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, issued a statement on Friday saying that “no amount of pressure or blackmail” will make him change his mind and support the agreement.

The statement was issued in response to Zaev’s interview with ERT, in which the moderate leftist premier suggested that he is confident of the president’s support for the agreement renaming the country “North Macedonia” once it passes the public referendum, possibly in the fall.

“With his inconsistent, contradictory and confusing statements, Prime Minister Zaev continues to lie to and manipulate not only the Macedonian public, but also the public in Greece and the international community,” the statement from Ivanov’s office said.