Greece and Macedonia pledge to rescue oil pipeline deal

Aug 30, 1999 02:00 AM

The leaders of Greece and investment-strapped Macedonia pledged to rescue a stalled oil deal that would create a pipeline between the two neighbours. "Small problems can always be expected. These problems will be overcome," Macedonian Premier Ljubco Georgievski told in this northern town after meeting Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Both leaders said they were keen to push ahead with a $ 182 mm agreement signed in May, under which Greece's Hellenic Petroleum will acquire a majority stake in Macedonia's only oil refinery, the state-run OKTA, and expand its capabilities.
The Greek firm will also build a 230 km (143 mile) pipeline, linking Macedonia's capital Skopje to the Greek port city of Thessaloniki.
But Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov has delayed the deal, arguing that one of his country's most important companies should not be controlled by foreign interests. He ordered parliament to reconsider its ratification. The vote is expected next month.
"We are neighbours, we live in the same neighbourhood and there must be friendship and co-operation," Simitis said. "There are problems. We know them ... I believe there will be progress soon."

Already-struggling, the economy in landlocked Macedonia was hurt further by the war in Kosovo, leaving its politicians eagerly seeking foreign investment.
Greek firms are expected to participate in the possible privatisation of a host of Macedonian companies, from banks to breweries. Business deals have helped the two countries dramatically improve ties, which soured over the former Yugoslav republic's name.
Greece has accused Macedonia of usurping the name from the larger neighbouring Greek province _ also called Macedonia _ after the republic of 2 mm people peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia in 1992.
Relations have been steadily improved since an agreement in 1996 but negotiations on the name dispute remain deadlocked at the United Nations. Most recently, the two countries reached a crime-fighting agreement targeting drug and immigrant trafficking.
Georgievski was in northern Greece to attend a cultural festival at Prespa Lake, just a few km (miles) from the borders with Macedonia and Albania. Also present was Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov, who met with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou.

Source: AP via Newspage
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