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Greek Lawmakers Debate No-Confidence Motion After Macedonia Deal


Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of Greece's main opposition party, New Democracy, in parliament on June 14.

Greek lawmakers are debating a no-confidence motion in the government brought by the main opposition party over a deal aimed at solving a name dispute with neighboring Macedonia.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras -- whose government is expected to win the vote -- on June 12 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.

The move came as Skopje and Athens 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.

But the deal, which still requires ratification by both national parliaments and by a referendum in Macedonia, is facing a backlash in both countries, with both Zaev and Tsipras being accused at home of "national capitulation." The subject of a name-change deal has also triggered mass protests both in Skopje and Athens in recent months.

"I am compelled, it is my duty, to exhaust every possibility offered in the constitution to avert this development," Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of Greece's main opposition party, New Democracy, told lawmakers on June 15.

Greece had for a long time objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its northern region of the same name.

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 am compelled, it is my duty, to exhaust every possibility offered in the constitution to avert this development," Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of Greece's main opposition party, New Democracy, told lawmakers on June 15.

Outside the parliament building in central Athens, a few hundred people also protested the deal, but the turnout was much lower than that of a previous rally that drew more than 100,000 people earlier this year.

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

The same day, about 1,000 protesters gathered outside parliament shouting "Zaev is a traitor" and calling for his resignation.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and the BBC

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