Greece considers the name "Macedonia" to be part of its own cultural heritage - it is also the name of a Greek province considered to be the centre of the ancient empire of Alexander the Great.
The tiff has prevented Macedonia from gaining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership. "I think there is a will [in Athens] and I believe also in Skopje to try to reach a settlement", Nimetz noted. "There is a time for decision-making, and I think we are there", said Matthew Nimetz, U.N. special envoy on the "Macedonia" dispute since 1999. Skopje officials dismissed the explanation, countering that their Macedonia territory has been in existence for a significant time. The left-led governments in both countries have pledged to seek a solution this year.
Athens may submit an outline of its proposals to Skopje and the United Nations next month, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told state television on Monday night. "What matters is that the word used in a composite name is not in English, but in Slavic", he said.
The dispute broke out after Macedonia, for decades a part of the former Yugoslavia, gained independence in 1991.
Separately, former socialist prime minister Costas Simitis said a solution was "a precondition for Greece's prosperity" and called for a "serious and responsible negotiation" without resorting to populism. A nationalist rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki drew more than 100,000 people on January 21, and a similar rally is scheduled in Athens on Sunday.
Bishop Dorotheos of Syros, who is the vice president of the Holy Synod, is to join rally organizers on a stage in Syntagma Square on Sunday along with the bishops of Drama and Chios, it was announced on Tuesday.
The clerics are expected to attend the gathering on Sunday in a unified show of rejection of the use of the term "Macedonia" in any form.