Macedonia name changed to end 27-year name row

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Greek and Macedonian governments have agreed on the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia", stated Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on a press conference on Tuesday.

Tsipras and Zaev spoke on the phone yesterday for an hour, and said they would continue their conversation today.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev said the former Yugoslav republic's new name for both domestic and worldwide purposes would be Republic of 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.

Besides claiming it as part of its heritage, Greece also had a province bordering the new country with the same name and feared Skopje could harbour territorial ambitions.

The Greek government has spent 27 years fighting with Macedonia over the use of the name, which references ancient Macedonia and by association its famous leader, Alexander the Great.

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The decades-old dispute between the two neighbors had been an obstacle to Macedonia joining either the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military alliance or the European Union.

"By solving the name question, we are becoming a member of NATO", Zaev added.

Athens, which has a northern region also called Macedonia bordering on the ex-Yugoslav republic, objected to the name, demanding it be changed.

It was only with the adoption of a provisional name - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - that the country was finally admitted into the United Nations in 1993.

Ever since the Republic of Macedonia declared its independence in 1991, Greece has been fighting the country over its name.

The United Nations envoy who has tried to mediate the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia for almost as long as the dispute has existed is congratulating the countries' prime ministers for resolving their differences. "Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise - Republic of Northern Macedonia". He added that a meeting between the two could take place.

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"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.

NATO and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said would help consolidate regional peace and stability. However, Tsipras said, this will be contingent on Macedonia completing the constitutional changes.

In a statement, Nimetz congratulated the two prime ministers on reaching an agreement: "I have no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people".

In Athens, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the deal "historic".

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

On the timeline of the deal, Mr Tsipras said that it would be first signed by the two countries' foreign ministers and then ratified by Macedonia's Parliament.

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