National News

Greece, Macedonia end 27-year name row

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Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zeav, center, accompanied by the members of his cabinet, addresses the media during a news conference in the Government building in Skopje, Macedonia, Tuesday, June 12, 2018. The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia say they have agreed on "Republic of Northern Macedonia" as the new name for the Balkan country, ending a bitter 27-year dispute that had prevented the former Yugoslav republic from joining international institutions such as NATO. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

Greece and Macedonia have reached an historic agreement to end a 27-year name dispute that had kept the smaller, younger country out of international institutions such as NATO.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev said on Tuesday the former Yugoslav republic's new name for both domestic and international purposes would be Republic of North Macedonia.

Macedonia will also amend its constitution to reflect the change.

The nationality of the country's citizens will be listed on official documents in English as "Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia", Greek officials said.

NATO and European Union officials welcomed the breakthrough, which NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said would help consolidate regional peace and stability.

Greece had long demanded its northern neighbour change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of the region in northern Greece named Macedonia - birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.

The current prime ministers' attempts to end the dispute have faced dissent in both countries.

Large protests by opponents of a compromise have threatened to split Greece's governing coalition and provoked a rift between Macedonia's prime minister and president.

Main opposition parties in both countries have rejected the agreement.

Zaev said the deal would be signed this weekend and a voter referendum held later this year.

Tsipras said the 140 countries which had recognised the Balkan state simply as Macedonia would now recognise it as Republic of North Macedonia.

On the timeline of the deal, he said it would be first signed by the two countries' foreign ministers and then ratified by Macedonia's parliament.

Greece will then back invitations for Macedonia to join NATO and start negotiations on joining the EU.

© AP 2018