The Macedonian Tendency: Interview Burns vs Konstandaras, 2005

Monday, October 22, 2007

Interview Burns vs Konstandaras, 2005

Note: Transferred from old site: The Macedonian Tendency (

By David Edenden

This is an interview from 2005 so it does not shed any light on US thinking today. One thing I can say is that Under Secretary Burns must be a hockey player, because he shows a great deal of skill as a stick handler.

I did not know that the US was so outspoken on Macedonian matters at the OSCE. I wish someone would tell me these things. Hey!, Burns, don't be a stranger!

Interview With Nikos Konstandaras of Kathimerini (Greece):
October 22, 2005

QUESTION: On the Macedonia issue, which is fresh...

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes, I know…what I said…I saw the newspaper articles extracted a lot of commentary.

QUESTION: There was a kind of change in the nuance of what you said, but the meaning was clear, that the United States would object to Greece objecting to a country called Macedonia joining NATO. I am sure you are aware that this is a very passionate issue in Greece and Greece has these diplomatic tools that it can use. How could anyone suggest that it not use diplomatic tools at its disposal?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think that, unfortunately some of the Greek newspapers misquoted what I said and changed the meaning of what I said. I never said that it would be “shameful.” I never said anything of the sort. I was talking to a Macedonian reporter, and she simply asked me what would happen if Greece and Macedonia were unable to work out their problems and Macedonia’s entry was blocked. And I think it’s clear that the Greek government does not want to block Macedonia’s entry into NATO or the European Union. The argument is not over the entry in NATO or the European Union; the argument is over the name of the country.

And when I said it would be a “shame,” I meant it would be a shame if these problems were not resolved at some point in the future. We believe they can be resolved. Both sides are responsible for resolving them. The United States is neutral in this regard. We have told both the Macedonians and the Greeks that we think the problem should be worked out through the UN special negotiator, Ambassador Nimetz, and we don’t have any influence over his proposals. We have not sought any influence over his proposals. He writes his own proposals. They are not manufactured in Washington, D.C. and by our government. We take no position as to which is the right outcome. We think Greece and Macedonia can determine that.

QUESTION: Well, you did take a position. And the fact that President Bush was very quick after his reelection to recognize our neighbor as the Republic of Macedonia made very clear where the United States stands on the issue. I wonder if you have found that to be an obstacle in your dealings with Athens and Skopje?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: No, I don’t think so. That was a national decision that the United States took and we have to stand by that decision, obviously. What I was referring to was the UN negotiation, that Ambassador Nimetz has been running for a number of years. In that particular process, where Greece and Macedonia are involved together in these discussions with Ambassador Nimetz, it is there that we have said we don’t believe it is appropriate for the United States to prescribe what we think is the right outcome. We think that both sides should work with Ambassador Nimetz and try to have a compromise solution. I think we’ve been neutral in that respect. I think we should be neutral. And I’m sorry that some of the Greek newspapers did not translate my words in the correct way.

QUESTION: There was also some tension over the last couple of weeks over statements made at the OSCE by your country’s ambassador, regarding Greece’s treatment of what the envoy termed minorities in Greece. Athens protested to Ambassador Ries here. Is it now U.S. policy to recognize an “Albanian minority” in Greece, as well as the others mentioned?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: There’s really no major change in U.S. policy. We’ve had a longstanding practice of recognizing that there are minorities in Greece. This is nothing new. I remember the previous Greek government did not appreciate this fact. We simply have to stick to our own opinion. But it’s not a crisis in our relationship. It should not be a crisis. There are more important issues that we should be discussing.

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