FYROM’s prime minister Zoran Zaev said he is ready to renounce his country’s claim to the legacy of Alexander the Great to help solve the 26-year-old dispute with Greece over the country’s name.

The 37-year-old PM made the comments as rumours surfaced that Skopje and Athens were close to finding a solution over the renaming issue.

Prime Minister Zaev who has been in power since May 2017, said: “I give up (the claim) of ‘Macedonia’ (sic) being the sole heir to Alexander. The history belongs not only to us, but also to Greece and many other countries.”

Since gaining its independence in 1991, the former republic of Yugoslavia has claimed the heritage of the most famous ruler of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia as a basis for the republic’s national identity.

Earlier in December Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska told reporters. “The next year is crucial. We need to show that there are developments – people do not expect everything to be solved tomorrow – but they expect progress because we have been stuck for 10 years.”

Coinciding with talks restarting after a three-year hiatus, the deputy PM added: “What happens will create either inspiration or frustration right across the Balkans.”

Ms Sekerinska desribed Athens’ concerns that FYROM has expansionist ambitions by referring to itself as the northern Greek region of Macedonia as “laughable”.

“No one in Macedonia has territorial pretensions, literally no one. The only time when we might occupy Greece is when we pour to Greek beaches as tourists.”

The new government is Skopje appears more inclined than its predecessors to break the deadlock with Athens, which would pave the way for FYROM to join NATO and the European Union.

Meanwhile the UN’s veteran negotiator Matthew Nimetz said the name dispute “can and must be resolved [in 2018]” although he added that a “magical new name” was not yet on the table to satisfy both sides.

Mr Nimetz said talks will intensify in January, February and March in New York.