Greeks rally against use of 'Macedonia' in name dispute with Skopje


Mr. Kammenos, who apart from leading the right-wing Independent Greeks party is also the country's defense minister, has insisted that the word Macedonia must not be part of its neighbor's name.

Thousands of Greeks have gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki to march against the Republic of Macedonia's name. A brief exchange followed with anarchists throwing stones and the police firing with tear gas.

Representatives from the main opposition party, New Democracy, were also present despite a tacit order from its liberal-minded leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis to boycott the protests.

Some 400 buses will be transporting people in from across the country, local media reported.

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"Macedonia is in Greece and we are demonstrating against the neighboring country and against irresponsibility against our country and against our Macedonia", said one of the demonstrators.

Greece's objections to the use of the name Macedonia since the Balkan country's independence in 1991 have hampered the tiny nation's bid to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

After the upheaval in Greece, the country joined the United Nations in 1993 under the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

United Nations negotiator Matthew Nimetz said that although the talks had yielded no concrete results so far, he added that he was "very hopeful" a solution was within reach. "Macedonia is Greek and this is not negotiable", said protester Dimitris Triantafillidis, 50, a shop owner from the northern regional district of Pieria.

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The 1992 rally was backed by the Greek Orthodox Church which, however, distanced itself from Sunday's demonstration, as a whole.

Settling the issue would be hailed as a success by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose left-right coalition first came to power in 2015.

However, he told Ethnos newspaper that he could understand "the concerns and sensitivities" of Greeks in the region of Macedonia.

According to reports, Nimetz has proposed five possible options for the country's name - Republika Nova Makedonija (Republic of New Macedonia), Republika Severna Makedonija (Republic of Northern Macedonia), Republika Gorna Makedonija (Republic of Upper Macedonia), Republika Vardarska Makedonija (Republic of Vardar Macedonia) and Republika Makedonija (Skopje).

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Macedonia, the name, has always been disputed by both regions.