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Greeks Protest Use Of 'Macedonia' In Name Dispute With Skopje

People begin gathering in Thessaloniki before a protest against the use of the name Macedonia by Greece's northern neighbor.

Ten of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki for a protest in a 27-year-old dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

The participants in the January 21 rally said they were against the use of the word "Macedonia" in any solution to the row between Athens and Skopje.

Greece's objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since the country’s independence in 1991 has complicated the bids by the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the Europe Union and NATO.

Leaders of both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.

UN-mediated talks between the two countries' chief negotiators in New York on January 17 did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to media reports.

"It's totally groundless historically and absurd to seek the exclusivity of Macedonia," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview published on January 21.

"But it is not unreasonable to have the term 'Macedonia' included in a compound name, with either a geographical or a chronological qualifier, for all uses, to make absolutely clear that nobody claims other people's land or history."

Tsipras said earlier in January that a solution to the dispute should be found before the end of 2018.

His Macedonian counterpart, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, has said that he thinks the issue could be resolved by July.

Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.

At the UN, Macedonia is formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

However, the Security Council has agreed that it is a provisional name.

Macedonia also has been admitted to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund under the FYROM moniker.

Most countries, including Russia and the United States, recognize the country’s constitutional title, the Republic of Macedonia.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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