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March 22, 2019

Macedonia PM urges Greek MPs to ratify name deal

Macedonia PM urges Greek MPs to ratify name deal
'Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, seen on the right, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the name change agreement ' - By: AFP/File Maja ZLATEVSKA

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

Macedonian lawmakers voted through the agreement late on Friday and 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.

During the vote, 81 of the Macedonian parliament's 120 MPs 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 European Union 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 unravelling one of the world's longest diplomatic disputes, which began nearly three decades ago with Macedonia's declaration of independence but whose roots date back centuries.

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has its own northern province of the same name, which in ancient times 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, with the pair nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

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