Monday, October 2, 2023
 
 

Zaev-Mitsotakis New York meeting – breaking the ice

Zaev focused on winning Greek support for EU enlargement

- Advertisement -

The prime ministers of Greece and North Macedonia held their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 24 September, ending a long period since the 7 July election victory of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has sought to keep the issue of bilateral relations on the back burner in order to handle other challenges.
The opposite is true for North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who has staked his political career on his country joining NATO and the European Union. Zaev must demonstrate forward movement on both fronts and the EU is due to decide on the timetable for enlargement discussions with North Macedonia and Albania in October.
Mitsotakis, as the newly elected Greek PM in a period of difficult relations between Turkey and the western allies, was scheduled to meet US President Donald J. Trump in New York later on September 24, but that meeting was cancelled abruptly after political developments in Washington concerning a likely impeachment motion grabbed Trump’s full attention. Zaev was not scheduled to do so this year. In any event, Zaev will still be making history for his country as the first leader of the newly renamed North Macedonia to address the UNGA, later in the week.
Meeting readout
Greek government sources indicated an energetic but positive discussion ensued, in which Mitsotakis told Zaev he would never have signed the Prespes Agreement if he was in power and had done all he could while in opposition to block it, but now that it had been ratified, the document would have to be respected. Mitsotakis warned that the deal’s commercial clauses — mainly impacting the use of the name Macedonia for Greek products — needed to be fully respected. These comments are fully consistent with Mitsotakis’ position over the last several months.
Zaev was focused on his country’s EU accession, as to be expected. Zaev also claimed the implementation of the agreement would help Greek investors increase their profile in his country but Mitsotakis noted that was not quite accurate, as Greek companies faced no real barriers to investment in the years before the Prespes deal was signed.
No mention was made of any discussion of any form of official visit to Greece by Zaev, returning former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ April then-labeled “historic” visit to Skopje.
Given that Zaev’s government had developed remarkably few lines of communication with Greek politicians other than from Syriza — Greece’s former ruling party and the one that signed the widely despised Prespes Agreement in 2018 — expanded contacts between top elected leaders in both countries makes perfect sense, especially in view of the looming increase in the flow of refugees from Turkey (both countries’ foreign ministers have met once in August).
US role in the meeting?
What is not known at this point is which side took the initiative to request the bilateral meeting in New York. It is of course quite possible the US offered its good offices, and it is very likely some kind of bilateral “heads of state” meeting was discussed during the July visit to both Athens and Skopje of US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phillip Reeker. American diplomats traditionally spend the summer months arranging high-level UNGA bilateral and regional group sessions and may have quietly suggested in Athens that the meeting with Zaev would help build the case for scheduling the all-important Trump-Mitsotakis New York meeting which never came to pass.

- Advertisement -

Subscribe to our newsletter

Co-founder and Executive Director for Global Economics and Southeast Europe at NE Global Media.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

Latest

Iran protesters mark anniversary of “Bloody Friday”

Residents in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and...

US announces Israel’s acceptance into the Visa Waiver Program

Israeli citizens will be allowed visa-free entry into the...

UN General Assembly 2023: More progress urgently needed on Sustainable Development Goals

The 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off...

Don't miss

Iran protesters mark anniversary of “Bloody Friday”

Residents in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and...

US announces Israel’s acceptance into the Visa Waiver Program

Israeli citizens will be allowed visa-free entry into the...

UN General Assembly 2023: More progress urgently needed on Sustainable Development Goals

The 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off...

Europe’s lawmakers see opportunity for regime change a year after Iran’s latest uprising

On September 21, representatives of various political groups held...

UN General Assembly 2023: More progress urgently needed on Sustainable Development Goals

The 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off in New York as planned on September 18, with global attention focused on the so-called...

How countries prepare for population growth and decline

Early this year, India surpassed China as the most populous country in the world, with the latter having 850,000 fewer people by the end...

Central Asia’s leaders get into specifics on trade-boosting initiatives

In the collective daydreams of Central Asian presidents, there is no end to the possibilities for regional integration.The ideas came thick and fast at...

US Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery announced

President Joe Biden announced on September 14 the appointment of Penny Pritzker as the US Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery.In this role, she...

Domestic operatives carried out cyberattacks on Iranian regime websites

Treadstone 71, a provider of cyber security consulting and training services, has published a new report on highly-publicized breaches of Iranian government websites and...

With Armenia defeated tensions between Yerevan and Russia reach a turning point

Relations between Armenia and its traditional strategic partner Russia are deteriorating fast. With Yerevan's fundamental defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh - the 30-year-old Moscow-backed separatist region...

Nairobi Declaration calls for global tax on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport, aviation

As the curtains came down at the Africa Climate Summit (ACS23), heads of state and government adopted the Nairobi Declaration, calling on world leaders...

Private military companies continue to expand in Africa

In the wake of the July 26 coup in Niger, the world’s spotlight has once again turned to the expansion of private military and...