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Greece, Macedonia Say Talks On Name Dispute Near 'Final Stage'

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias (left) and his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Dimitrov, talk during a meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, on May 4.

The foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia have said in Brussels that they have completed the main round of negotiations on the contentious issue over Macedonia's name and are ready to hand the final stage over to the countries' prime ministers.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov met on the sidelines of a European Union meeting and issued separate statements saying that the long-running dispute was in the "final stage" of resolution.

It was not clear when Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would meet.

Macedonia has committed to altering the country's name in response to Greek concerns that the name "Macedonia" implies a claim to Greece's northern region, also called Macedonia.

The issue has soured relations between the two neighbors since Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece has said it is prepared to lift its objection to Macedonia's membership in NATO if an agreement on the name issue can be reached.

Last week, Matthew Nimetz, a United Nations mediator who is facilitating the talks, said the process had "intensified considerably" in recent weeks and that both sides "recognize the importance of reaching an agreement."

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa