Macedonia to be called 'Republic of Northern Macedonia'

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The dispute over the "Macedonia" name had been a thorn in relations of the two countries at least since 1991, when Macedonia broke away from former Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hailed a "historic solution" today after Skopje and Athens resolved a longstanding row by agreeing to rename his country the Republic of North Macedonia.

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

In 2016, amid Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II, Athens accused Skopje of using "excessive force" to push back hundreds of migrants trying to cross into Macedonia to continue their journey to northern Europe.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that all of Greece's concerns had been addressed with the new name, according to the Associated Press.

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

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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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said would help consolidate regional peace and stability.

United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz welcomed the news, expressing confidence that the agreement will strengthen relations between the two Balkan neighbors "and especially between their people".

"This will set Skopje on its path to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership".

"It will help to consolidate peace and stability across the wider Western Balkans", he said.

However, despite the what it seems an obvious sign of relief for both sides, the name resolution still has to be approved by the Macedonian people and the Greek parliament.

"This achieves a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and our northern neighbours and puts an end to the irredentism which their current constitutional name implies", he said.

The name will be used both internally by the government and externally when conducting foreign affairs.

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"We have a combined name with a geographic qualifier for all uses", Tsipras said as quoted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) news agency.

He added that Macedonia "cannot and will not be able in the future to claim any connection with the ancient Greek civilisation of Macedonia".

Tsipras said that the agreement would specify that Macedonia's language is of Slavic origin.

'I am keeping my fingers crossed, ' he said.

As it happens, Greece also has a region called Macedonia.

The compromises to resolve the name issue have faced dissent in both countries, threatening to split Greece's governing coalition and provoke a rift between Macedonia's prime minister and president.

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