Published: Tue, June 12, 2018

Tsipras: 'Republic of North Macedonia' for universal use

Tsipras: 'Republic of North Macedonia' for universal use

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says Greece and Macedonia have reached an agreement to resolve their 27-year dispute over the former Yugoslav republic's name.

"The chance is here and it must be seized, bravely, as this is the only patriotic way", Macedonian Prime Minisrter Zoran Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

"We have a deal. With this solution we are strengthening Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity, once and for all", he added.

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

"Macedonia will be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia [Severna Makedonija]", Zoran Zaev, the country's prime minister, announced Tuesday.

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.

Greece will then back invitations for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and start negotiations on joining the European Union.

The two prime ministers are expected to sign the agreement over the next weekend. Macedonia will also amend its constitution to reflect the change as part of the deal. It also has to be ratified by both Macedonian and Greek parliaments.

The EU's enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn and foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini responded with an enthusiastic welcome for the agreement.

"Dear fellow citizens, we have [made] a historic decision..."

In a decades-old dispute, Greece wants the former Yugoslav republic to change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece's region of Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

Athens objected to its neighbor's new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece's province of the same name, which borders the Balkan country.

The proposed name change has been resisted by sections of the Macedonian public.

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