The prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia appears hopeful for a resolution of the longstanding name dispute with Athens in the first half of 2018.

PM Zoran Zaev said that both sides appear decisive in their quest for a settlement in talks coordinated by UN Special Representative Matthew Nimetz.

Zaev said that the first half of 2018 will offer a very good opportunity to resolve the name issue.

‘’The first half of 2018 is a very good opportunity to finally find a solution to this problem and for Macedonia to move forward, to receive a date for the start of accession negotiations with the EU, and to automatically trigger an invitation to join NATO,’’ Zaef told journalists.

In his annual address to parliament, FYROM President Georgy Ivanov said that, ‘’a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue must respect our national identity’’. ‘’We cannot enter into a process of auctioning off the identity of our citizens and the constitutional name of the country,’’ he said.

The statement shows that FYROM is unwillingly to change it constitutional name domestically, even though Athens has said that any mutually agreed solution must be applied in all circumstances, domestically, bilaterally, and internationally.

Ivanov said that negotiations must be kept strictly in the UN framework, where both countries are equal in terms of UN Security Council Resolutions, the bilateral interim agreement, and the ruling of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

‘’Based on my eight-year experience as president, I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic about resolving the name issue, but rather an experienced realist,’’ Ivanov said