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ATHENS: Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hailed a “historic solution” on Tuesday after Skopje and Athens resolved a longstanding row by agreeing to rename his country the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

The 27-year dispute has led to frequent disagreement and protests, but the two countries agreed on the new title of the former Yugoslav republic after months of intensive diplomacy.

“There is an agreement. We have a historic solution after two and a half decades. Our agreement includes Republic of Northern Macedonia for overall use,” Zaev told reporters in the capital Skopje.

Greece has long objected to its northern neighbour being called Macedonia because it has its own northern province of the same name.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also declared a deal had been struck. “We have reached an accord, a good accord that covers all the conditions set by Greece,” Tsipras said in televised comments after briefing Greece’s president Prokopis Pavlopoulos on the accord.

Macedonia hopes that resolving the name dispute will help clear the way for it to join the European Union and Nato. The deal still needs to be approved by the Macedonian and Greek parliaments.

Greek officials earlier said the list of potential names included “New Macedonia” and “Upper Macedonia”, but after months of discussions “Northern Macedonia” was chosen.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had prepared a 20-page draft agreement after repeated talks with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov.

Kotzias told Kontra TV on Monday that the agreement would specify that Macedonia’s language is of Slavic origin.

“It’s clear that [Macedonia] bears no relation to the ancient [Macedonian] culture... and that their language belongs to the Slavic language,” he said.

Ancient Macedonia was the cradle of Alexander the Great’s empire, a point of pride to Greeks today. But under the Romans, the province of Macedonia was expanded to include territory in modern-day Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018

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