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SKOPJE (Reuters) -- Macedonia has filed a lawsuit against Greece before the International Court of Justice in The Hague accusing Athens of blocking its NATO membership, the foreign minister said.

Macedonia had hoped to receive an invitation to join NATO earlier this year along with Albania and Croatia. NATO member Greece blocked the move because of a dispute over Macedonia's name, which is also the name of its northern province.

"We have thought this [through] very thoroughly before initiating the case, but we don't see any other way to satisfy justice and protect our rights" said Antonio Milososki, Macedonia's foreign minister.

"We hope that this move will incite Greece to bring into accord its actions with the international legal obligations, and stimulate both sides to accomplish a final solution for the unsolved questions," he said.

In 1995, the two countries signed an agreement by which Macedonia agreed to use the provisional name "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" in international organizations while Greece pledged not to block Macedonia's integration into the European Union and NATO.

Macedonia says Greece has violated the agreement.

Greece objects to the name Macedonia, saying it implies a claim on the northern Greek province of the same name.

Macedonia and Greece have been negotiating for 17 years under the auspices of the United Nations, but are far from a solution. Relations between the two countries have worsened since the NATO summit in April.

A UN mediator has proposed "Northern Macedonia" as a compromise solution, but talks are tangled over related issues such as how outsiders should refer to the language and nationality of the people who live there.