Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Greece, Macedonia 'Have A Deal' On Name Dispute

Patty Aguilar | 12 June, 2018, 22:19

"Maybe what has the most historic gravity and value for Greece (is that) according to this accord. our northern neighbors don't have, and can not assert, any link to the ancient Greek culture of Macedonia", Tsipras said in a televised address on Tuesday evening.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras [left] and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev [right] in Sofia in May.

There was no immediate comment from Macedonian officials.

Greece had long demanded that Macedonia change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's northern region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday's "historic agreement" was "testament to many years of patient diplomacy", and called on the two countries' prime ministers to finalize the deal.

Zaev said that the definition of the country's language will remain "Macedonian", as Skopje insisted in the talks.

The name dispute has poisoned relations between the two countries since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has prevented Macedonia from joining worldwide institutions such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Greece argued that by calling itself Republic of Macedonia the neighboring country was stating a territorial claim of the Greek northern province, also called Macedonia.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reiterated during a press conference his pledge to hold a referendum on the new name in the fall.

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

"We don't agree and we won't vote for any deal including the name 'Macedonia, '" Panos Kammenos, Greek Defense Minister and head of the rightist Independent Greeks party, said.

Ancient Macedonia was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a point of pride to Greeks today.

"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is not successfully completed, then the invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be automatically rescinded and the accession talks with the European Union will not start", he said. "Thanks to you, the impossible is becoming possible", he said.

However, both prime ministers faced dissent at home.

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European Union enlargement, said they looked forward to accession negotiations beginning with Skopje in June. The new name will be used both domestically and internationally, and Macedonia will amend its constitution as part of the deal.

This is according to the Greek media, Tanjug reported on Tuesday.

Mironski contributed from Skopje, Macedonia.

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