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Greek Opposition Calls No-Confidence Vote Over Macedonia Name Deal


New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a parliamentary session in Athens on June 14.

Greece's main opposition party has called a no-confidence vote in the government in a bid to block a proposed name deal with neighboring Macedonia.

"This is the last straw," New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament on June 14. "We will not divide the Greeks in order to unite the [Macedonians]."

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras -- whose government is expected to win the vote -- this week agreed with Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev to rename Greece's northern neighbor the Republic of North Macedonia.

Under the accord, its language will be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians or citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia.

Skopje and Athens had recently stepped up United Nations-brokered negotiations to resolve their 27-year name dispute, which dates back to 1991 when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Greece had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Greece, an EU and NATO member, has also cited the dispute to veto Macedonia's bid to join the two organizations.

"I have an obligation to the Greek people to try to prevent the future of our homeland being mortgaged under a deal harmful to national interests," Mitsotakis told lawmakers.

On June 13, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov also objected to the deal, saying he wouldn't sign it because it violated the country's constitution.

"My position is final and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail, or threats. I will not support or sign such a damaging agreement," Ivanov told a news conference.

Later on June 13, about 1,000 people gathered in front of the parliament building in Skopje, calling for Prime Minister Zaev's resignation.

The demonstrators were holding Macedonian flags and chanting slogans such as "Zaev is a traitor."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and the BBC
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