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Macedonia PM Expects To Settle Name Dispute With Greece By July

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev

Macedonia hopes to settle its decades-old name dispute with Greece by the time of a NATO summit in the summer, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on February 19.

Greece objects to the former Yugoslav republic's use of the name Macedonia, which Athens says could imply territorial claims over its own northern region of the same name.

Macedonia and Greece have recently stepped up efforts to resolve the row.

"I believe we will be able to conclude the negotiations successfully by the NATO summit in July," Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in an interview with Austrian radio station ORF.

The dispute has affected Macedonia's efforts to join NATO and the European Union. Greece is a member of both entities.

Negotiations between the two neighbors have been inconclusive since 1991, when Macedonia gained independence from the former Yugoslavia.

It was admitted into the United Nations in 1993 under the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The foreign ministers of the two countries met the United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz in Vienna earlier this month to discuss the issue.

Macedonia has said it is ready to add a geographical qualifier to its name to help resolve the dispute with Greece, in an effort to increase its prospects of joining the European Union and NATO.

An agreement could include Macedonia adding "Upper," "New," or "North" to its name.

"We have an automatic invitation, meaning NATO members will start ratifying our [NATO] accession as soon as we and Greece announce that the problem has been solved," Zaev said.

The NATO summit will be held on July 11-12 July in Brussels.

Based on reporting by Reuters and