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Greek parliament ratifies Macedonia name agreement, PM calls it "historic day"

(Xinhua)    11:07, January 26, 2019

Greece's parliament approved on Friday the historic agreement reached last summer which resolves a nearly 28-year-old dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the use of the name Macedonia.

153 MPs voted in favor of the deal and 146 against, with one abstention. The roll-call vote in the 300-member assembly was broadcast live on Greek national television ERT.

In addition to the ruling radical left-wing SYRIZA party's 145 deputies, another eight lawmakers supported the agreement.

They were either independent MPs or belonged to the Independent Greeks (ANEL), a former junior partner in the country's government, which earlier this month withdrew from the coalition rejecting the deal.

"Today is a historic day for Greece. ... We safeguard a significant part of our history, the legacy of ancient Greek Macedonia. We are turning the page and give the floor to peace, cooperation, friendship, solidarity and mutual understanding," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told ERT and other media in his first remarks after the vote.

Under the agreement, which was reached after marathon UN-mediated talks and was also ratified by parliament in Skopje, FYROM will be renamed "Republic of North Macedonia," paving the way for the country's accession to the European Union (EU) and NATO.

The dispute between the two neighboring countries started in 1991, when FYROM declared independence from Yugoslavia choosing the name Macedonia.

Greeks protested from the beginning, as a province in northern Greece has the same name and they feared that the new state may raise territorial claims in the future.

Despite the constitutional amendments approved by parliament in Skopje earlier this January to ease all such concerns, Greek opponents of the deal have not been convinced that the danger of irredentism is over.

On his part, shortly after the vote in parliament on Friday, the main opposition conservative New Democracy party's leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, stated that should his party win the next general elections, it retains the option of exercising the right of veto during the neighboring country's accession process to the EU.

"Today is a difficult, sad day for Greece. ... I will fight with all my powers to deal with the negative consequences, which undoubtedly this problematic deal will bring," he said, insisting that Athens was wrong to "recognize Macedonian language and identity."

Hundreds of protesters braved the heavy rain and gathered outside the parliament building again on Friday to protest against the agreement.

According to recent opinion polls, 65-80 percent of Greek citizens still oppose the deal.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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