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Greek Lawmakers Open Debate On Macedonia Name Deal Ahead Of Vote

A banner reads "Macedonia is Greece" as demonstrators wave Greek flags during a rally in Athens on January 20.

A heated debate on a historic agreement aimed at normalizing relations with Macedonia is under way in the Greek parliament, which is scheduled to vote on the deal on January 24.

The governments of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, struck the deal in June to change the former Yugoslav republic's name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

Under the agreement, Greece will renounce its objections to Macedonia joining NATO in return for the country renaming itself -- a long-standing demand from Greece, which argues use of the current name term implies territorial ambitions on its own northern province of the same name.

Opponents have announced protests in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki to coincide with the debate and the January 24 vote. A protest by tens of thousands of people in Athens on January 20 turned violent.

The deal reached the Greek parliament after Skopje in November approved a constitutional amendment that renames the country.

Those who oppose the deal in Macedonia have called the deal "the greatest national treachery."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP