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article imageMacedonia PM urges Greek lawmakers to ratify name deal

By AFP     Jan 12, 2019 in World

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Saturday called on Greece to end the two nations' decades-long dispute by ratifying the deal to rename his country The Republic of North Macedonia.

Macedonian lawmakers approved the agreement late Friday. It now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy. But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision," Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the parliament's decision, praising the Macedonian leader's "vision, courage and persistence" in seeking a resolution to the dispute with Greece that would allow it to join NATO and the European Union.

"The United States sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region," Pompeo said in a statement released from Washington.

Eighty-one of the Macedonian parliament's 120 members backed the name change, securing the required two-thirds majority to push it through.

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered last year.

"Within 10 days... if we see everything is in order, we will vote," Tsipras said on Friday evening.

Athens has promised to lift its veto on Skopje's attempts to join NATO and the EU if Macedonia changes its name.

Zaev said he was "convinced that Greek lawmakers will recognise the historical significance of the agreement."

The accord aims to start unraveling one of the world's longest diplomatic disputes. It began nearly three decades ago, with Macedonia's declaration of independence, but has roots dating back centuries.

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks.

Last June, Zaev and Tsipras reached a landmark compromise over the name dispute. Their efforts brought the pair a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

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