NATO Doors Remain Open, Name Row Settlement is Necessary, Stoltenberg tells Zaev
Macedonia will try to get an invitation to join NATO with its provisional name first, and afterwards to settle differences over the name with Greece in the two-year period needed for the 29 NATO members to ratify the admission, the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told a news conference Monday alongside the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg at the Alliance's HQ in Brussels.
However, Stoltenberg has told Zaev that 'an invitation will be extended once the name row with Greece is solved' in line with the conclusion of the 2008 Bucharest Summit, which has been reiterated in all other summits of NATO.
Asked whether he would ask for an invitation to NATO under the reference FYROM or other alternative, such as Upper Macedonia, Prime Minister Zaev said that years of having Macedonia's integration bid to NATO blocked had sent a message from the region that being stuck in one place could cause crises, amongst other things.
"In any case, we will try to move Macedonia forward towards a full-fledged NATO membership, for which I expect support from the citizens of Greece, from both the ruling and opposition party to solve this issue. There are alternatives. We hope that under the provisional reference Macedonia will be invited to join NATO in compliance with the agreements with Greece. While the 29 NATO members are finishing ratification, which takes 2 years, we will be seeking a solution. There are many alternatives, it depends a lot on our southern neighbor. But, we are looking for all the more reason to find positive solutions for stability, which is very plausible if Macedonia joins NATO," noted Zaev.
Stoltenberg said the NATO stood by the request for 'a mutually acceptable solution over the name issue first, then a membership invitation.' As regards speculation on the interference from Russia into the internal affairs of Macedonia, the Secretary General said that any external influence into domestic processes was 'unacceptable'.
According to him, the best way to address external meddling is 'to build strong democratic institutions, to modernize the government and to implement reforms.'
Answering a journalist question, the NATO head Stoltenberg said the Alliance had never been explicit on what kind of solution should be agreed, only that it had to be a mutually acceptable one. "As long as it is something that is acceptable both by Greece and FYROM, then we can start to move. But it is not up to me to dictate or to specify a solution," he stressed.
NATO, Jens Stoltenberg said, really understands the importance of the Western Balkan region and the Alliance has helped put an end to two ethnic wars in the region. We have a long history in the Western Balkans, we work closely with Skopje, the NATO has a liaison office in Skopje and we are thankful for the country's contribution to our missions and operations and for your presence in Afghanistan," the NATO top official said.
Kicking off the news conference, Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO welcomed the formation of a new government following months of political crisis in the country. "NATO and the rest of the international community were shocked by the violence at the parliament in Skopje in April. Real progress has been made since then.
"I continue to encourage all parties to put their divisions aside. To engage constructively in the political process and to work in the interests of all people in your country. Good governance, the rule of law, strengthening of a multi-ethnic society, and good neighbourly relations are all essential. Further progress in these areas will benefit all your citizens. It will also advance your country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. NATO and the European Union speak with one voice on these issues," he underlined.
Stoltenberg said the NATO wanted to see Macedonia as part of a stable, democratic and prosperous region. "Last week, Montenegro became the 29th member of the Alliance. This shows that NATO’s door remains open. We continue to support your nation on the path towards eventual membership of the Alliance. As with all aspirant countries, it is important to remain focused on the reform agenda and to ensure the political stability. There may be hurdles to overcome but it can be done over time," he stated calling the country an 'important partner' for sending troops to the NATO-led missions.
Moreover, the Prime Minister Zaev extended an invitation to the NATO's Stoltenberg to visit Macedonia soon and thanked the Alliance for the support. Macedonia, he said, welcomes Montenegro's membership to NATO. "I see it as an encouragement for our country and hopefully, we will be the next good news from the NATO. It is important the region to be safe and stable," Zaev noted. "We are also committed to improving cooperation with our neighbors and to stronger regional cooperation.
Macedonia is a verified partner of the NATO, giving its contribution to the European Union and the NATOled missions. We are taking measures to tackle the violent extremism and to address joint challenges.
We can do a lot more if we jointhe NATO," the Macedonian Prime Minister said adding that NATO membership enjoyed overwhelming public support in Macedonia.
With his meeting with NATO chief Stoltenberg, PM Zaev concluded his first official visit to Brussels, where he was accompanied by Vice Premier and Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska, Vice Premier for European Affairs Bujar Osmani and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
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- Zaev to Tusk: Bilateral Issues Should not Hinder Euro-Integration Process
- Macedonian Prime Minister Meets EU Officials in Brussels
- European Parliament Votes on its Resolution About Macedonia on Wednesday
- Kotzias Underlines that Macedonia Must Change its Constitutional Name
- Defense Minister Sekerinska Meets EU Ambassador Zbogar