Greece, Macedonia 'Have A Deal' On Name Dispute

Macedonia and Greece reach agreement in name dispute

"There is no way back", Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in a press conference, Reuters reports, after he spoke with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.

Since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has feared its neighbor could make territorial claims on its northern region of Macedonia - the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials have welcomed a deal between Greece and Macedonia resolving a decades-long dispute over the Balkan country's name.

Zaev said resolving the longstanding issue would open Macedonia's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

He added that Macedonia would take a new "compound name with a geographical denominator", without spelling out the name.

"A short while ago we reached an agreement with the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the disagreement our two countries have" over the name issue, Tsipras told President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Greece has long objected to its northern neighbour being called Macedonia because it has its own northern province of the same name.

Significantly, they agreed that the new name would be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognize the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia.

Macedonia's new name will be put up for a referendum, to be held in autumn.

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However, passing the name "Northern Macedonia" through Greek parliament might turn out tricky as most parties previously rejected any kind of compromised on the issue.

Athens and Skopje had been racing to agree the outline of a settlement before an European Union summit in late June, though any accord would need to clear a referendum in Macedonia and win approval from politicians in both countries.

"In other words, if the constitutional amendment is not successfully completed, then the invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be automatically rescinded and the accession talks with the European Union will not start", he said.

"This historic agreement is testament to many years of patient diplomacy, and to the willingness of these two leaders to solve a dispute which has affected the region for too long", said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes. "Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras' governing coalition partner, said he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote, meaning the left-wing prime minister will need to seek support from political opponents.

The main opposition party in Macedonia, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE, accused Zaev of "capitulating" to Greece.

Mitsotakis earlier slammed the deal reached between Greece and FYROM, calling it a "bad deal" that recognizes a Macedonian ethnicity and language.

The United Nations envoy who mediated the dispute for two decades congratulated Tsipras and Zaev for resolving their differences.

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