By Ayhan Simsek
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged support for efforts to overcome decades-long dispute between Athens and Skopje over the name Macedonia.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, Merkel said Macedonia and Greece have become closer than ever to find a resolution to the name row.
“Wherever we can be helpful and can make a contribution, we would encourage the negotiating partners for taking the steps which are necessary,” she said.
Greece, which is both a NATO and EU member, has long opposed to the official name of its neighboring country, arguing that it has a region by the same name in the north of the country.
The dispute has been one of the main obstacles for Macedonia’s ambitions to join the NATO and the EU, due to the veto right of Greece.
Merkel said she had a phone call with Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday and was happy to see that both sides were moving closer.
The negotiations between Macedonia and Greece have stepped up recently, as the new government in Skopje has sought progress in its bid to join the NATO and the EU.
Despite the dispute between Athens and Skopje, many countries including Turkey recognize Macedonia with its present name.