UN welcomes progress in Macedonia naming dispute

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — The United Nations welcomed the decision by the parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to ratify an agreement with Greece on a new name for itself, UN News reported Sunday.

In a statement, Matthew Nimetz, UN secretary-general’s envoy for the naming dispute, congratulated the FYROM parliament and citizens, who approved the name change in a referendum held in September 2018, for the move.

“This historic agreement between two neighbors opens the door to a new relationship between them and to a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans,” he said. “I look forward to completion of the process as outlined in the agreement.”

He added that the United Nations remains “committed to working with the two parties in finally resolving the difference between them.”

In order for FYROM to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia, the Greek parliament must also vote to ratify the deal. But on Sunday, the issue led to a Greek government crisis, with the governing coalition split over the name change.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who leads the coalition government’s junior party, had been opposing the name deal and resigned over it. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in turn, announced a plan to call a confidence vote, which is expected to be held on Wednesday.

The dispute stretches back to 1991, when the FYROM declared its independence from Yugoslavia, and announced its intention to be named Macedonia. Neighboring Greece refused to recognize the name, insisting that only the northern Greek region of the same name should be called Macedonia, and arguing that the FYROM’s use of the name was a challenge to Greek sovereignty.

In June 2018, Greece and FYROM agreed to a deal that would change the name of FYROM to the Republic of North Macedonia. In exchange, Greece would lift its objections to the country’s accession to NATO.

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