Greeks rally over title dispute with neighbor Macedonia

Lester Mason
January 22, 2018

"This is not negotiable", said Leonardou, a 59-year-old protester from Thessaloniki.

"We estimate there were at least 400,000 people".

"The mobilisation of the people has exceeded all expectations, " Irini Leonardou, a member of the rally's organising committee, told AFP. A brief exchange followed with anarchists throwing stones and the police firing with tear gas. But Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is in a tough spot if he also rejects use of the word Macedonia.

More rallies are planned in northern Greece this week.

Macedonia and Greece are involved in an ongoing dispute over the name of the Republic of Macedonia.

Most countries, including Russian Federation and the United States, recognize the country's constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.

A poll last week showed that a majority of Greeks do not want "Macedonia" used in any solution.

The UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz - a 24-year veteran on the issue - said last week that he was "very hopeful" that a solution was within reach.

Earlier in the day, Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki urged Greeks to join the rally.

According to a survey conducted for Greek radio station 24/7 by the Alco polling group, 63 percent of respondents said they thought it was in Greece's best interests to seek a mutually acceptable solution at the United Nations talks.

Protest marches were set in Thessaloniki on January 21 after polls showed 68 percent of Greeks oppose giving away Macedonia although Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias have already suggested they are willing to do so.

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos, after a meeting he had this week with Tsipras, said that he is not going to support any of the upcoming protests, as he has "confidence in the Greek government to handle our national issues".

However, he told Ethnos newspaper that he could understand "the concerns and sensitivities" of Greeks in the region of Macedonia.

According to reports, Nimetz has proposed five possible options for the country's name - Republika Nova Makedonija (Republic of New Macedonia), Republika Severna Makedonija (Republic of Northern Macedonia), Republika Gorna Makedonija (Republic of Upper Macedonia), Republika Vardarska Makedonija (Republic of Vardar Macedonia) and Republika Makedonija (Skopje).

If a deal is reached at the United Nations talks, it will be put before Greek parliament for approval, with the government expecting the compromise name to be approved despite opposition within some parties.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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