Macedonian PM sees solution to name dispute with Greece in June

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev gives a news conference at the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SOFIA (Reuters) - Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Thursday an agreement between Skopje and Athens to settle a decades-old name dispute could be reached before a European Union summit in June.

After meeting his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras on the sidelines of the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia, Zaev told reporters: "We have discussed one (specific) solution to the name dispute that could be acceptable for both sides, but we need to have further discussions in our countries."

Macedonia's NATO and EU accession process has been blocked by Greece which disputes the former Yugoslav republic's name, saying it implies a territorial claim over its northern province of the same name.

Zaev said the two sides would continue talking "even if we miss the June deadline". "We are solving the dispute in order to strengthen the dignity and identity of the citizens in both countries," he added.

Zaev said he had discussed progress on solving the name dispute with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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