Tuesday, 21 November 2017 | News today: 4

Thessaloniki mayor Boutaris in Skopje on Thursday

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Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris will travel to Skopje on Thursday to meet with his counterpart, Petre Silegov, and discuss closer ties between the two cities, daily “Kathimerini” reports.

“Boutaris’s visit comes amid growing optimism in Athens of a thaw in relations – chilled by an ongoing name dispute – following the defeat of former nationalist prime minister Nikola Gruevski in elections last year and the formation of a new government that is seen as more open to discussion”, reads the daily.

The Greek official is also set to meet with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, President Gjorge Ivanov and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, as well as DUI leader Ali Ahmeti.

Speaking to Kathimerini, Boutaris denied that his visit is in any way related to Athens’s expectations for talks on the name dispute to resume at the start of next year.

“We do not make foreign policy. We are trying through city diplomacy to bring the communities of the two sides closer together and working together to solve some of the problems we have as neighbors,” he said.

Boutaris stressed that Thessaloniki receives hundreds of visitors from Macedonia for shopping, entertainment and tourism in the broader region, adding that the aim of the visit is to “cultivate the best possible relations.”

Boutaris refused to comment on the issue of the name dispute ahead of his trip, though he has in the past spoken in favor of a composite solution.