NATO to sign Macedonia accession protocol next week

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia will sign an accession protocol with NATO on Wednesday under its new name North Macedonia after parliaments in the tiny Balkan country and its southern neighbor Greece ratified a historic name change deal.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Saturday on Twitter that “on February 6 we will write history: NATO Allies will sign the accession protocol with the future Republic of North Macedonia together with (Macedonian) foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov.” The ceremony will take place at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Greece had blocked Macedonia from joining NATO for three decades because of the name dispute, saying that Macedonia’s name implied territorial claims toward Greece’s northern province.

Macedonia expects Greece to be the first NATO member to ratify the accession protocol. It will then start calling itself by its new name.

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The Greek parliament is expected to ratify the accession protocol by Thursday at the earliest or Feb. 11 at the latest. All 29 NATO members must ratify in order for Macedonia to join the alliance as its 30th member. This is expected to happen by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020.

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Demetris Nellas contributed from Athens, Greece.

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