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U.S. Welcomes Macedonian Parliament’s Decision To Back Name Change

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev speaks to reporters on January 12 in Skopje.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev speaks to reporters on January 12 in Skopje.

The Unites States has welcomed the decision by Macedonia's parliament to approve a constitutional amendment that renames the country the Republic of North Macedonia.

In a statement released on January 12, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that "Macedonia’s leaders demonstrated vision, courage, and persistence in their pursuit of a solution to the name dispute, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU as the Republic of North Macedonia."

The United States sees this as a "historic opportunity to advance stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region," the statement added.

The name change will help resolve a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece -- opening the way for Skopje to join NATO and the European Union.

In a parliamentary session on January 11, 81 deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor, securing the required two-thirds majority.

It came after three days of negotiations between Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and lawmakers that opposed the change.

The governments of Macedonia and Greece both struggled to secure the political support required to ratify the agreement reached last June in the border region of Prespes.

Opponents of the proposal say they are defending Macedonia's name, identity, and history, as well as the traditions of the Macedonian people, against what they call "the greatest national treachery."

Athens argues that use of the term "Macedonia" implies territorial claims on Greece's northern province of the same name and on its ancient heritage.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said earlier this week that Greece's parliament would also be asked to ratify the agreement by the end of the month.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service
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