Macedonia’s accession to NATO bodes no good – Russia’s envoy

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MOSCOW, February 9. /TASS/. Macedonia’s accession to NATO along with bellicose rhetoric coming from some NATO states does not look very promising, Russia’s Ambassador to Skopje Sergei Bazdnikin said in an interview with TASS.

“Russia’s stance on NATO enlargement, including in the Balkans, is known far too well. In spite of all assurances that the process is not aimed against our country, the deeds denote the opposite, and the alliance’s military infrastructure is coming closer to our borders, and it [NATO] officially views Russia as the main adversary,” Bazdnikin said.

“Accompanied by NATO hawks’ bellicose and more aggressive rhetoric – as they are setting the tone in the alliance – it cannot certainly bode anything good,” he added.

According to the ambassador, Skopje assured Russia numerously, including in the public field, that Macedonia’s aspiration for NATO has no anti-Russian underlining.

“We have no grounds to doubt the sincerity of our Macedonian counterparts. The problem is that having joined the alliance, they will be forced to take the decisions not in line with with their national interests but in line with the principles of ‘Atlantic solidarity’ which will essentially make them lose their freedom of action,” the diplomat said.

On February 6, NATO’s 29 states signed an agreement with Macedonia at the North Atlantic Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, in the presence of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov. The agreement will be submitted for ratification to the NATO states and after this process is complete, Macedonia will follow suit.

Deepening split

An agreement changing the name of Macedonia has deepened the split in the country and will have negative long-term consequences for the Balkans, Bazdnikin stressed.

The ambassador recalled that nearly two thirds of Macedonia’s population boycotted the referendum on the Prespa agreement on September 30, 2018.

“It proves that a divide in Macedonia has deepened,” he said. “Unconditionally, this cannot but have long-term repercussions in such a highly explosive region, like the Balkans.”

The ambassador pointed out that regardless of how much Russia is being blamed, Moscow does not want any escalation in either Macedonia or the Balkans.

“However, it is worth mentioning that the Treaty of Prespa was approved notwithstanding serious breaches in domestic and international law, in other words, it goes beyond the boundaries of the legal field,” Bazdnikin warned.

“It is unlikely to be an instrument for a fair, sustainable and lasting solution to Macedonia’s renaming. On the contrary, as Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov has been reiterating, instead of solving one old problem, the Prespa agreement might create many new ones,” he added.

About the Treaty of Prespa

On June 17, 2018, the Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers signed an agreement on the shore of Lake Prespa, where the borders of both countries meet. The accord would see Macedonia being renamed the Republic of North Macedonia. On January 11, 2019, the Macedonian parliament added amendments to the country’s constitution. The Greek parliament endorsed the treaty on January 25.

The accord put an end to the 27-year-long dispute between Athens and Skopje, during which Greece had been holding up Macedonia’s admission to the European Union and NATO.

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