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Macedonia’s Zaev Sees Deal On Name Dispute Despite Opposition

Supporters of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party protest in Macedonia against the country's proposed name change.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev says he is optimistic a dispute with Greece over the former Yugoslav republic's name will be settled soon, despite continued opposition in both countries.

"I remain optimistic, although it is not easy. It is a very delicate and important issue," Zaev said on June 7.

"It is important that this solution is a sustainable and viable one and also 100 percent guaranteed for the future generations," he added.

The dispute dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Athens objected to its neighbor's new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece's province of the same name, which borders the Balkan country.

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.

The two sides are now close to a compromise name that will almost certainly contain the term "Macedonia," such as "New Macedonia," "Northern Macedonia," or "Upper Macedonia."

But nationalists in both countries oppose a compromise, and several rallies have been held against a deal.

On June 6, thousands of people protested in major cities across Greece against the compromise, while, four days earlier, like numbers of supporters of Macedonia's right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE party took to the streets of the capital, Skopje, to protest against a deal.

Based on reporting by AP and IBNA