Congressman Eliot Engel declared strong support for Macedonia regarding the political crisis in the country that has been ongoing for the last six months.
“The US has always been a good friend of Macedonia and will keep supporting it,” said Congressman Engel following his meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Skopje on Friday
Macedonia could be a model for coexistence, Engel said, telling reporters he hopes the political crisis can be resolved soon.
“I am always optimistic and usually it yields results. I have no advice for the Premier or anybody else, but I believe that this crisis should be resolved as soon as possible," Engel told reporters.
The Macedonian crisis first began in January following the illegal release of phone records of high ranking government officials by opposition leader Zoran Zaev.
Zaev accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of corruption and electoral fraud by referring to information gained from the wiretaps.
Macedonian name dispute
Congressman Engel answered a question about the Macedonian name dispute with Greece considering a recent visit by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to Macedonia during which he met with Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Popovic.
"I hope that the name dispute will be resolved. I paid my first visit to Macedonia in 1993 and talked with then President [Kiro] Gligorov and we both expressed belief that this dispute would be settled very soon,” the congressman said.
The name dispute is an issue of historical pride and territorial tension which goes back to Alexander the Great.
Greece has accused Macedonia of being a potential irredentist state illegitimately using the name of the ancient Macedonian state of Alexander.
“We are here today after so many years and the name dispute is still unsettled. I hope, considering the serious crisis in Greece, that everybody will come to realise that there are much more important issues than the name. Hence, I hope for the two sides to reach an agreement and that the name issue may and should be resolved," Engel said.
US Congressman Engel had separate meetings with four political party leaders - Premier Nikola Gruevski, coalition partner Ali Ahmeti, and main opposition leaders Zoran Zaev and Menduh Thaci - in the Macedonian parliament.
The four political party leaders had planned to get together to discuss the crisis earlier this year, but the meetings did not take place as planned.
After meeting with Engel, ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party leader and coalition partner Ali Ahmeti said that the meeting between the four politicians won’t be held.
Opposition Albanian politician Menduh Thaci from the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) said that the meeting will take place after the weekend, the Macedonian Information Agency reported.
The next meeting is expected to be attended by the four political party leaders as well as US Ambassador to Skopje Jess Bailey and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union Aivo Orav.
Celebrating US Independence Day in Skopje
The American embassy in Macedonia’s capital Skopje held a ceremony celebrating the United States’ Independence Day on Thursday.
The ceremony was attended by top Macedonian officials, ministers, MPs, representatives of political parties, NGOs, religious communities, and the diplomatic corps.
Bailey stressed on the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Macedonia that both countries should reflect on their partnership and achievements.
“Our nations share many things in common. We are both multi-ethnic countries, not defined by a single ethnic group or a single language,” Bailey said on Thursday, adding “Americans are proud to be friends and partners of the people of Macedonia as they strive to create a prosperous, vibrant, and multi-ethnic democracy.”