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'We have a deal,' Greece says on decades-old Macedonian name dispute

13 June 2018

The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia have agreed on a new name for the latter country - the Republic of Northern Macedonia - ending a bitter 27-year dispute. "I'm happy because we have a good deal which covers all the preconditions set by the Greek side", Tsipras said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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

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

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

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".

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

If the name change is approved by the Macedonian people and the parliaments of both nations, then it would pave the way for the tiny Balkan nation's eventual North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union memberships.

"Today is a hard day for the Republic of Macedonia".

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Tuesday that a deal had been reached to give Macedonia a different name, addressing all of Greece's concerns.

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.

"Maybe what has the most historic gravity and value for Greece (is that) according to this accord. our northern neighbours 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.

Apparently other names thrown into the pot included Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia), Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) and Ilinden Macedonia.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his "sincere congratulations" to Greece's Alexis Tsipras and Macedonia's Zoran Zaev. "We want to be part of a solution", said an official at the opposition Socialist Party.

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. A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit is scheduled for mid-July.

"This historic agreement is testament to many years of patient diplomacy and to the willingness of these two leaders to solve a dispute which has affected the region for too long", said Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Bulgaria, holder of the EU's rotating six-month presidency said the deal paved the way for accession talks. The dispute poisoned relations between the two neighbours, and the United Nations appointed a special envoy to mediate.

'We have a deal,' Greece says on decades-old Macedonian name dispute