US State Dept Official in Macedonia Trip

Skopje – The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Stuart E. Jones, is visiting Macedonia and is to hold meetings with President Branko Crvenkovski and Premier Nikola Gruevski.

On Tuesday he is set to meet Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki as well as the leaders of the major parties in the country.

Macedonia’s integration in to Euro-Atlantic organisations, bilateral relations as well as regional stability will be among the topics for discussion, the United States embassy in the country said according to local A1 TV.

It is not clear whether the latest developments in the ongoing United Nations-sponsored “name talks” between Skopje and Athens will be discussed.

Since April, the resolution to the ‘name row’ with Greece has been Macedonia’s only precondition for its full accession into NATO. Athens has blocked the invitation arguing that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims over Greece’s own northern province of the same name.

The US, which is seen as a supporter for Macedonia’s NATO entry has urged for a quick solution to the dispute ever since.

This is Jones’s first visit to Macedonia since he took over the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in July from Rosemary di Carlo.

The visit comes just days before the US presidential elections that will pit Republican John McCain against Democrat candidate Barack Obama for future president.

Considering that in 2004 the outgoing US President George W. Bush recognised Macedonia’s constitutional name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ despite strong Greek objections, this has stirred worry in Macedonia on whether Bush’s successor would continue the same policy.

Recently the US ambassador to Macedonia, Philip Ricker told local media that no matter who wins the polls, the US will remain close friends with Skopje.

Meanwhile, Skopje and Athens are still to send their replies to the latest UN-sponsored proposal for a settlement in the name row.

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