Macedonia reaches name change deal with Greece

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Macedonia reaches name change deal with Greece

Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hailed a "historic solution" today after Skopje and Athens resolved a longstanding row by agreeing to rename his country the Republic of North Macedonia.

"There is no way back", Zaev told a news conference after speaking with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras by telephone.

The Republic of Northern Macedonia is the new name of the former Yugoslav republic that PMs Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev have agreed on.

"Accepting the "Macedonian language" and the "Macedonian ethnicity" constitutes a non-acceptable national concession", he said in a video posted on his official Twitter account.

Macedonia will also amend its constitution to reflect the change.

While the debate over the name might seem trivial, Greece has gone as far as to block Macedonia from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or the European Union because of its name.

Zaev said resolving the long-standing issue would open Macedonia's access to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

After a long and thorough diplomatic process, both sides have come to an agreement to the name Republic of North Macedonia or Severna Makedonija, in Macedonian.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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

Protests in Greece have existed for decades but were renewed earlier this year following UN-mediated talks between the two countries to try and resolve the issue that did not yield an agreement.

Zaev said the deal would be signed this weekend, and a voter referendum would be held in the fall. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in several major Greek cities, including Thessaloniki and Athens, calling for "Macedonia" to remain Greek.

'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, ' NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. "I am keeping my fingers crossed".

Defense 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.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras also confirmed that an agreement on the name has been reached.

"In essence, the (deal) is acceptance of all Greek positions", VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said.

Greece is to ratify the deal in parliament after Macedonia has made the necessary changes to its constitution, Tsipras said.

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