Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name, paving way to European Union membership

Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty

"The United States sees this as a historic opportunity to advance stability, security and prosperity throughout the region", Pompeo said in a statement released from Washington.

Eighty-one deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favour of the change.

Macedonia passed the deal as an amendment to its constitution on Friday, in line with an agreement with Greece to resolve a three-decades long dispute.

Meanwhile, ahead of the vote in Athens, two news websites alleged that a prominent member of Greece's main opposition New Democracy party - which rejects the name deal - called on its members to phone lawmakers of the ANEL party and urge them to vote against the agreement.

Macedonia's conservative opposition leader has accused the government of securing parliamentary approval for a constitutional amendment changing the country's name by "blackmailing" lawmakers.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Kammenos will meet Sunday morning to discuss their differences.

A United Nations envoy has praised Macedonia after its parliament approved a deal with Greece that would rename the country North Macedonia.

"NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region", Stoltenberg wrote on his twitter account.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally invited Macedonia to join the military alliance in 2008, but Greece vetoed the move, claiming that Macedonia's name implies territorial aspirations toward Greece's northern province with the same name as well as appropriating Greece's historical heritage.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc strongly supports the deal and "remains firmly committed to continue to fully support and accompany (Macedonia) towards its common strategic goal of European Union integration".

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The change won't be official until the Greek parliament approves it. Many countries, including Turkey, recognize Macedonia with its present name.

But while Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to rubber stamp the deal with Macedonia, defense Minister and Independent Greeks' leader Panos Kammenos is vehemently opposed.

Greek nationalists argue that the name "Macedonia" can only refer to the Greek province of the same name.

Macedonian lawmakers voted to rename their country the Republic of North Macedonia on Friday and the agreement now needs backing from the Greek parliament to come into effect. Mickoski told reporters the constitutional changes were approved against the desires of the Macedonian people and described the vote as "an act of treason".

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