Greece and Macedonia may be close to the end of their quarter-century-old dispute over the latter's official name.
The UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy Matthew Nimetz has reportedly delivered five name proposals to the delegations of both countries, during talks taking place in New York.
According to Macedonian news outlets quoted by Greek media Thursday, the proposed names -- all preceded by "Republic of" are: New Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia and Macedonia (Skopje).
Although Nimetz said the process was going in the right direction, Macedonia's negotiator, Vasko Naumovski, dismissed the proposals presented by the UN mediator as “far from a dignified solution".
Athens does not want its neighbor to have the name Macedonia because of the existence of a region in Greece with the same name.
In Greece, a governmental crisis is in the making as talks proceed.
The ultra-conservative Independent Greeks party, which is part of the mainly leftist coalition government, has said it opposed any name that includes the term "Macedonia". The main opposition New Democracy party has still not expressed its official stance on the issue.
"I try to find possibilities that have some kind of realism to it. I myself don't think it's realistic to expect the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, not to have Macedonia in some form in its name," Nimetz said.
NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg expressed his support towards Macedonia's efforts to join NATO during a speech in Macedonian Parliament, Thursday. “There is still much hard work to be done,” Stoltenberg added. “That means, of course, resolving the issue of your country's name. It's an issue that has weighed on this region – and this country – for far too long.”
Macedonia is unable to be a member of the EU and NATO because of the ongoing name dispute with Greece, which has been ongoing for more than 25 years.
"There is no other way to join NATO without solving the name issue, and that has clearly been stated several times," Stoltenberg said later in a news conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in the capital Skopje, according to a NATO statement.
"So there is no Plan B, no other way of joining NATO than solving the name issue," Stoltenberg said.
Macedonia was founded in 1991, was recognized by the UN in 1993, but was accepted with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek objections.
Some 118 countries, including Turkey, currently recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name.
*Diyar Guldogan contributed to this report from Ankara