ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on ratification of an agreement to resolve the place name dispute between Greece and Macedonia (all times local):
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed the Greek parliament’s ratification of a deal to end a 27-year dispute over neighboring Macedonia’s name.
In a statement Friday, Pompeo praised the Greek government’s “vision, courage and persistence” in pushing ahead with the historic agreement.
He says it will improve regional stability and allow Macedonia to take its “rightful” place in NATO with the new name of North Macedonia.
Under the deal, Greece will lift its objections to its northern neighbor joining the alliance in return for the name change.
Greece long argued that by taking the name Macedonia, the small country that had been part of the former Yugoslavia implied territorial claims to a northern Greek province of that name and usurped Greek culture and ancient history.
Albania and Kosovo have hailed the vote of the Greek parliament ratifying the Macedonia name deal, saying it’s a great contribution to regional stability.
A statement Friday from Albania’s Foreign Ministry considered the vote a “key contribution to stability, development and Euro-Atlantic integration of the whole region.”
Tirana considered it a “victory of diplomacy coming also as an irreplaceable contribution of the Albanian factor in Macedonia.”
Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1-million population.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci tweeted congratulations to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras “for showing vision and courage.”
Thaci said “it is welcoming news for the whole region and a strong push for efforts to close all open issues between the countries of the Balkans.”
Britain’s foreign secretary has congratulated Greek lawmakers for accepting a deal to resolve the protracted disagreement over the use of the name Macedonia.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the Greek parliament’s ratification of the agreement on Friday as a “historic moment bringing a decades-old dispute close to an end.”
The deal will see the young nation of Macedonia renamed North Macedonia in return for Greece dropping objections to its northern neighbor’s membership in NATO and, eventually, the European Union.
Opposition to the country being called Macedonia has been fierce in Greece, where critics say it implies territorial claims on a Greek province named Macedonia.
Hunt says the deal reached between the countries’ prime ministers last year “brings the prospect of increased stability and prosperity to the wider region.”
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has congratulated Greece following Friday’s vote in the Greek Parliament to ratify the deal normalizing relations between the two countries.
In a message to the Greek prime minister, Zaev wrote in English on Twitter: “Congratulations my friend, Alexis Tsipras. Together with our peoples we reached a historical victory. Long live the Prespa Agreement! For eternal peace and progress of the Balkans and in Europe!”
Both prime ministers faced fierce political opposition and struggled to ratify the deal reached last summer at Lake Prespa, which borders both countries and Albania.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is welcoming the Greek parliament’s ratification of the Macedonia name agreement, which paves the way for Skopje to join the world’s biggest military alliance.
Stoltenberg said in a tweet Friday that the vote is “an important contribution to the stability and prosperity of the whole region.”
He added: “I look forward to the future Republic of North Macedonia joining NATO.”
Efforts by the government in Skopje to join NATO have been blocked almost exclusively by the disagreement with ally Greece over the Balkan country’s name.
Top European Union officials are hailing as a historic moment the Greek parliament’s ratification of the Macedonia name agreement, paving the way for the Balkan country to join NATO.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s top diplomat and the senior official supervising the bloc’s enlargement, said jointly Friday that they “warmly welcome” the vote in Athens, which has “written a new page of our common EU future.”
They say that “it took political courage, leadership and responsibility on all sides to resolve one of the most entrenched disputes in the region. Both countries have seized this unique opportunity, which sets an example of reconciliation for Europe as a whole and will give a further boost to the European perspective of the region.”
Greek lawmakers have ratified an agreement for the country to drop its objections to neighboring Macedonia joining NATO if the small country’s name is changed to North Macedonia.
The deal faced fierce opposition and had already cost Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority. It passed Friday with the support of independent lawmakers.
The ratification vote came after three days of acrimonious debate on the deal, which aimed to end a nearly three decade-long dispute that has kept Macedonia from joining the western military alliance and the European Union.
Greece has long argued use of the term Macedonia implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name, and usurped its culture and ancient Greek history.
Greek lawmakers are to wrap up three days of acrimonious parliamentary debate with a vote on a deal normalizing relations with Macedonia, under which Greece’s northern neighbor will rename itself North Macedonia and Athens will drop its objections to the country joining NATO.
More protests were scheduled in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki Friday. Opposition is particularly fierce in the northern Greek region of Macedonia, which borders the former Yugoslav republic that claimed the same name after declaring independence in 1991. Critics claim the deal signs away their identity and a cultural heritage dating back to Alexander the Great more than 2,300 years ago.
The agreement has already cost Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority after the right-wing Independent Greeks quit the governing coalition in protest.