Greece backs Macedonia's NATO accession, settles dispute

Greek parliament

Greek parliament

Tsipras and his counterpart from Skopje, Zoran Zaev, achieved the Prespa Agreement, meant to bring to an end the decades-long dispute over the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by the former Yugoslav republic.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended the agreement Greece signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to end a long-standing dispute over the country's name, saying he believed his government has "done its patriotic duty".

However, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev were able to push through their accord as part of efforts to normalize relations.

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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members signed the accession protocol with Macedonia on Wednesday, days after the Greek parliament endorsed an agreement between Athens and Skopje that changed the Balkan state's name.

Western countries strongly backed the deal between Greece and Macedonia, after the country's bid to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation had been shelved for a decade and amid European concerns over Russia's vocal opposition to the alliance's expansion further into the Balkans.

It also exposed old rivalries with Russian Federation, in a region where Moscow competes for influence with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

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The neighboring state must now formally request all countries to start using the name "Republic of North Macedonia" from now on, he noted. It says the alliance is undermining security in the region by taking in Balkan members.

Lawmakers late Friday voted 153-140 to back the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation protocol that must now also be approved by all other alliance members.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the opposition New Democracy party, said the agreement over the name change lacked legitimacy. "Today we vote against the accession protocol, because it seals a national defeat at Prespes", he said.

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The NATO ratification process typically takes about a year, and the United States has said it expects North Macedonia to formally join the alliance in 2020.

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