ATHENS – The deal the anti-nationalist ruling Radical Left SYRIZA made to rename its neighbor as North Macedonia is done, but US Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer, visiting Greece’s capital, said Russia is still trying to find some way to undermine it.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made the agreement to give away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia in changing the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and lift vetoes keeping the country out of NATO and opening European Union accession talks.
The deal was brokered with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed to find a solution for two decades and broke off talks for three years before resuming them early in 2018 with the US keen on getting what is now North Macedonia into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.
Palmer, without specifying exactly how since Russia indicated it would not use a veto in the UN Security Council to block the agreement that’s already happened, said there were Russian threats and propaganda aimed at keeping North Macedonia out of NATO.
Greece had ejected two Russian diplomats accused of trying to scuttle the deal but Tsipras, in a visit to Moscow, made up with President Vladimir Putin although the US is still wary about Russian motives.
Palmer told reporters in Athens that applying the new deal won’t be easy though as North Macedonia has already issued guidelines for reporters telling them to refer to citizens there as Macedonian and to a Macedonian language, culture, identity and nationality.
Asked by the business newspaper Naftemporiki about concerns raised by Greece’s major opposition New Democracy that North Macedonia would try to hijack the name of Macedonia outright, Palmer said both countries have to work it out.