Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Athens, Skopje agree on North Macedonia

Athens, Skopje agree on North Macedonia

Greek officials earlier said the list of potential names included "New Macedonia" and "Upper Macedonia", but after months of discussions "North Macedonia" was chosen.

Greece and Macedonia reached a historic settlement Tuesday to their long-simmering dispute over the name Macedonia - shared by the former Yugoslav republic and an ancient region of northern Greece.

Greece also demanded that Macedonia drops from its flag the rayed sun of Vergina, which it claimed was an ancient Greek symbol, as well as certain articles from its constitution.

In 2016, amid Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II, Athens accused Skopje of using "excessive force" to push back hundreds of migrants trying to cross into Macedonia to continue their journey to northern Europe.

The new name will be used both domestically and internationally, with Macedonia making a relevant amendment to its Constitution, Zaev added.

Speaking after a phone call with Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, he said: "There is no way back".

Soon after his election in June 2017, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev promised a new push to settle the name dispute and relaunched the drive for European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership.

Skopje hopes to secure a date to begin accession talks at an European Union summit in late June, and an invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in mid-July.

Matthew Nimetz said in a statement Tuesday he has "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighboring countries and especially between their people".

'This will set Skopje on its path to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership.

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"We must now make good use of the window of opportunity that has been pushed wide open to accompany and consolidate the winds of peace and cooperation in the entire region".

But Greece and Macedonia have today reached a historic agreement to resolve the long-running diplomatic dispute.

'I am keeping my fingers crossed, ' he said.

He added that Macedonia would take a new "compound name with a geographical denominator", without spelling out the name. "We just saw a press conference where the defeat is shown as a fake victory", Hristijan Mickoski, president of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE said.

In Skopje meanwhile, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said earlier in the day that he remained opposed to a constitutional change that would likely be included in the draft deal, to provide an assurance that the name change was permanent and binding for domestic and global use.

It will use its official new name in all internal documents and events and in all global forums.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his support for the agreement: "Thanks to you the impossible is becoming possible".

As it happens, Greece also has a region called Macedonia.

When Macedonia peacefully gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece balked at the name, saying it implied territorial ambitions toward Greece.

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