SKOPJE, Macedonia — Macedonia's prime minister is voicing hopes that he and his Greek counterpart can strike a deal Tuesday to settle a 27-year dispute over Macedonia's name, which has poisoned bilateral relations and hindered NATO expansion.
Zoran Zaev spoke for an hour Monday with Greece's Alexis Tsipras and said afterward that a "fair agreement" appeared possible during a phone call scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Ever since Macedonia gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has objected to its name, arguing that it implies claims on its own adjacent province of Macedonia. Macedonia denies that.
The dispute has frustrated Macedonia's hopes of joining NATO and the European Union.
"Probably my optimism about the name issue will be borne out, but it will finally happen when (everything is settled), and I hope that will be (Tuesday)," Zaev told private Telma TV in an interview.
"Our ultimate goal is to reach a fair agreement," he added.
Earlier Monday, Tsipras' office said the talks with Zaev were conducted "in a good atmosphere" and would be repeated Tuesday. The phone call had been postponed previously in a sign that the two countries were not ready yet for a compromise.
A new drive to settle the issue was launched this year. The two countries are reportedly discussing a composite name such as New, Upper or Northern Macedonia.
Zaev has promised to hold a referendum on the agreement.