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ND leader following briefing by Tsipras: PM’s handling of fYRoM ‘name issue’ unconvincing

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras briefed main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday over the resumed negotiations this month between Athens and Skopje to finally solve the fYRoM “name issue”, more than 10 years after the last substantive talks ended in failure.

Nevertheless, in exiting the high-profile meeting, Mitsotakis again charged that the leftist prime minister has “avoided” the process of creating real conditions for consensus within Greece’s political system on the thorny issue.

While trade and investment ties are booming between the two neighbors and millions of citizens of either country visit the other on an annual basis, the “name issue” – obscure by international standards – still prevents a full normalization of relations. As far as the official Greek argument is concerned, repeated governments in Athens have pressed for a constitutional name that differentiates the one-time Yugoslav constituent republic from the large Greek province of Macedonia, which more closely approximates historical and geographical Macedonia.

Mitsotakis, on his part, echoed his party’s criticism of a lost “window of opportunity”, while charging that the leftist-rightist coalition government is merely giving ground to the Skopje government without receiving guarantees.

He also criticized the fact that Tsipras has failed to brief Parliament or the Greek people over a foreign policy matter left dormant for years, but abruptly rekindled this month.

Tsipras is expected to brief other party leaders on Saturday, a day after he met with Greece’s non-executive president.

The first institutional official that the Greek PM briefed over the fYRoM “name issue” also generated reactions, given that the latter first met with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos last week to brief him over negotiations.