German official: Athens, Skopje should solve name spat soon

A senior German official has urged Macedonia and Greece to resolve a decades-long name dispute that has kept the former Yugoslav republic out of NATO and hindered its efforts to join the European Union.

Speaking at a press conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Germany's minister for Europe Michael Roth praised the "creativity and flexibility" of Skopje and Athens and urged them to reach an agreement this year.

Macedonia and Greece have been at odds over the name "Macedonia" for 27 years. Greece claims use of the name indicates territorial aspirations on the northern Greek province of the same name. Due to the name dispute, Greece has blocked Macedonia from joining NATO since 2008.

The two countries have intensified negotiations to resolve the issue in recent months.