US Pushes FYROM Opposition to Back Name Deal with Greece

FILE - U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, center, accompanied by FYROM's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, left, walk past an honor guard, upon his arrival at the government building in Skopje, FYROM, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

The United States urged the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s main opposition to ratify a deal with Greece to change its name to North Macedonia and approve changes to the Constitution removing irredentist claims on Greek lands.

FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is trying to gain support for the deal but needs a two-thirds majority with the main rival VMRO-DPMNE trying to stop him and declaring it’s dead because there was only a 36.5 percent turnout in a Sept. 30 referendum that saw 91.5 percent support.

In a letter to the opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Wess Mitchel said he must “set aside” partisan differences with ruling Social Democrats and vote with his country’s interest in mind, said Kathimerini.

“We urge you to create space, publically and privately, for Members of Parliament from your coalition to decide how they will vote on constitutional changes, free from threats of violence, retribution, or other forms of coercion,” Mitchel said.

“This is a historically important moment for your country, one that requires courageous leadership and maturity. As a true friend and supporter of Macedonia, we urge you to set aside partisan interests to advance our shared strategic interests and secure a brighter future for your citizens among the European family of nations,” he added.

Mitchel said he was “disappointed” with VMRO-DPMNE’s stance regarding the recent referendum in FYROM on the name deal and the constitutional changes required to ratify the accord, noting that there will not be a better deal than the one agreed with Athens last June “for years, if not decades.”

Greek anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he would remove a veto keeping FYROM out of NATO and opening European Union accession talks if FYROM lawmakers approve of the agreement.

He’d run into another obstacle though as his own junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos are also opposed and threatened to leave the coalition if the deal comes to a vote in the Greek Parliament.