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North Macedonia's NATO Accession Process 'Well On Track,' Stoltenberg Tells PM

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. (file photo)

SKOPJE -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he has assured North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev that the country's accession process is "well on track," days after the European Union failed to initiate membership talks with Skopje.

Stoltenberg tweeted on October 21 that he had phoned Zaev to "reaffirm NATO's commitment to North Macedonia's accession," adding that the "the ratification process is well on track & I look forward to North Macedonia joining our Alliance soon."

North Macedonia was granted a protocol on accession to NATO membership in February, after a 2018 agreement with Greece that changed the former Yugoslav republic's name from Macedonia, resolving a decades-long dispute between Skopje and Athens.

So far, 24 of NATO’s 29 member states have ratified the accession protocol.

Zaev received a major setback on October 18 after a handful of EU countries again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia as well as Albania.

That led the prime minister to call snap general elections, saying he wanted voters to decide on which path they wanted their country to take following what he called the EU's "historic mistake."

On October 19, Zaev announced that the leaders of the country's main political parties had agreed the "most suitable" date for the vote would be April 12.

The main goal of the leader of North Macedonia's Social Democrats since coming to power in 2017 has been to gain EU and NATO membership.

With reporting by dpa