North Macedonia Wants to Be Allies With Greece

Αssociated Press

FILE - A street artist prepares his performance as FYROM's flag flies over the main square of Skopje, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

North Macedonia Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, in the wake of his country being newly named in a deal with Greece, said the two should be “natural allies” who can work together economically and for joint defense and security.

In an interview with Efimerida ton Syntakton, the paper aligned with Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which gave away the name of Macedonia in the deal, Dimitrov said that "time, good faith, application (of the bilateral agreement) and friendship" will end opposition to the agreement, boosting the position of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

The major opposition New Democracy, under Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is leading big in polls with elections coming this year and he’s a fierce opponent of the deal that ended a near 28-year-long name feud between the countries and opened the door for North Macedonia to get into NATO and begin European Union accession talks.

Asked whether he was worried what Mitsotakis would do if New Democracy is elected, Dimitrov said, "Greece has its own interests in a functional, European, democratic country existing on its northern border," while adding that he hopes "We will be able to have a basic understanding ... No one has anything to gain by attacking your neighbor."

Dimitrov received Greece's new Alternate Foreign Minister, Sia Anagnostopoulou, in North Macedonia’s capital of Skopje on March 8 for a signing ceremony to open a new border crossing between the two neighboring states.

The Laimos-Markova Noga crossing will be in region of Lake Prespes where the deal was signed with the North Macedonia news agency previously citing a completion date in 2023, via a project of some 4.6 million euros ($5.17 billion.) Tsipras told reporters that his official visit to Skopje will come at the end of March or early April 2019.

The deal is done but he’s facing fallout from furious Greeks, two-thirds of whom opposed the agreement and as he ignored massive protests in the streets of Athens and in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city in the province of the real Macedonia.