By David EdendenTom Casey, Deputy Spokesman, U.S. Department of State
This is the official US State Department reaction to the Greek walkout at the nonproliferation conference. Its just nice to see someone supporting Macedonians in print!
At the next St. Patricks' Day Parade, kiss an Irish-American!
Daily Press Briefing -- May 29:
QUESTION: Yes, I have a few questions regarding the high-level meeting on PSI yesterday. My first question is: Can you tell us what happened and resulted to the withdrawal from the meeting of Greece and Cyprus?
MR. CASEY: Well, I’m not really sure. I think I’d have to refer you to the parties on that one. My understanding was that we had a meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative. This is, of course, the occasion of the fifth anniversary on it. Greece had some objections to the seating of the Macedonian delegation. And I would, frankly, refer you to both those parties for an explanation as to why they – they chose to depart the meeting.
QUESTION: And my follow-up question, in the morning, since you have said what happened, the U.S. decided to go with a name tag for the country, name FYROM. And then a few hours after that, you changed, if I’m not mistaken, to the official name recognized this country, the Republic of Macedonia. But a move like thus -- like this, we had the result of two big maritime powers, if not the biggest, Greece and Cyprus, to withdraw from the meeting and don’t sign the declaration. We have problems right now to an upcoming initiative by Ambassador Nimetz after the elections in Skopje to resolve the name issue that created problems in the last NATO summit. And some people say that this unexpected move yesterday by changing name tags every other hour resulted to sending mixed messages and put those two countries – all the parties, actually – on a difficult position. Any explanation of why this happened,
and who decided to change the name and then change it again?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me try – why don’t you hold on a second. First of all, you’ll forgive me; I realize how significant and important the name issue is for individuals, but you know, frankly, what piece of paper was in front of which delegate at which time, I don’t know and I don’t actually think that that’s particularly relevant here.
I think what is relevant is two things. First of all, longstanding United States policy as enunciated by Secretary – then Secretary of State Powell is to recognize the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name. So I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone, including our friends in Greece and Cyprus, that that is the name under which the U.S. Government recognizes Macedonia and that that is the way that they are generally referred to in all U.S. Government-led meetings and activities.
Now, that said, again, we very much respect and understand that there is a significant disagreement between Greece and Macedonia over the name issue, and we have been strong advocates both before, during and after the NATO summit in terms of trying to support Mr. Nimetz, Ambassador Nimetz and his efforts to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion to this issue. And that continues to be where we are.
So certainly, I’m not sure, you know, what the mechanics were at this meeting. But basically, U.S. policy on this issue is consistent. And certainly, we think it’s very important and really appreciate the role that Greece and Cyprus as well as other members of the Proliferation Security Initiative have played in trying to help support this really now global effort to help limit and thwart proliferation of nuclear and other dangerous technologies.
So certainly, we understand that the name issue is something that comes up on a regular basis and is something that is a difficult one and a sensitive one for people in Greece as well as for people in the Republic of Macedonia. But I certainly would hope that whatever technical problems or issues that occurred with some of the logistics in this meeting would not undermine the broad overall support that the initiative has in Greece and in Cyprus, as well as not confuse anyone in terms of the U.S. desire to see a mutually agreeable resolution of this conflict get reached.
QUESTION: My final question, that you just spoke about mechanics on the meeting. In your answer, many times you said that the official policy – and I know that – is to recognize this country as the Republic of Macedonia. Who decided to put at the start of the meeting the name FYROM in front of this country – FYROM – and then change it and create all this mess on a very important initiative like PSI?
MR. CASEY: I’m not sure --
QUESTION: With all respect, it’s not mechanics.
MR. CASEY: Well, look, what you’re asking me is which administrative staff person put a nameplate in front of a delegation. And I’m telling you that I don’t know and I’m telling you that, frankly, it doesn't matter in terms of broader U.S. policy, and that I would hope that while I would understand why that would be disturbing and cause an issue and did cause an issue with the Greek delegation and they’ve spoken to it, that, again, that that not be interpreted – that administrative issue not be interpreted as anything that was either trying to signal a change in U.S. policy or represent a change in U.S. policy or be done with a deliberate attempt to either offend or otherwise undermine the views and positions which we’re all well aware of and know are very strongly held by our friends in Greece.
QUESTION: Thank you.