Greece and Macedonia reach deal to end decades-old name dispute

Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev addresses the media about the'name agreement with Greece

Greece and Macedonia have reached an agreement over the latter's name after a dispute that has lasted since the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves the Presidential Palace following his meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (not pictured) in Athens, Greece, June 12, 2018.

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

Macedonia, the name of the ex-Yugoslav republic since its independence in 1991, has poisoned relations between Athens and Skopje for almost three decades.

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

Greek opponents of the deal say it would not go far enough.

Matthew Nimetz said in a statement he had "no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighbouring countries and especially between their people".

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

"We have been solving a two-and-a-half decade dispute. that has been drowning the country", he said, adding that the deal "will strengthen the Macedonian identity".

Athens and Skopje had been racing to agree the outline of a settlement before an European Union summit in late June, though any accord would need to clear a referendum in Macedonia and win approval from politicians in both countries.

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Its language will be "Macedonian" and its people known as "Macedonians" (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia). "We just saw a press conference where the defeat is shown as a fake victory", Hristijan Mickoski, president of opposition party VMRO-DPMNE said.

Organizers of past rallies in Greece's main cities against a compromise with Macedonia also expressed outrage at the deal, with one accusing Tsipras of "high treason".

The United Nations has been calling it the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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.

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

The new name will now have to be approved by Macedonians via a referendum, as well as the Republic's parliament.

Skopje hopes to secure a date to begin accession talks at an European Union summit in late June, and an invitation to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in mid-July.

Bulgaria, holder of the EU's rotating six-month presidency said the deal paved the way for accession talks.

Athens contends that the name Macedonia represents a territorial claim over Greece's northern province, also named Macedonia.

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