Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Greece approves FYROM's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession protocol, welcomes neighbor under new name

Greece approves FYROM's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession protocol, welcomes neighbor under new name

The Greek parliament on Friday ratified the NATO accession protocol for neighbouring Macedonia - renamed North Macedonia - with 153 votes in favour, 140 against and one abstention.

Greece's parliament on Friday approved a measure for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, ending a decades-old dispute watched closely by Western allies wary of Russian influence in the region.

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, speaks as Greek Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos, applauds during a parliament session in Athens, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

The Greek Parliament approved NATOs protocol for Macedonia's accession to the military pact here on Friday, following a landmark name-change deal last week.

"Once again I would like to welcome from this floor North Macedonia, a friendly country for Greece who should be an ally and not against our efforts to boost security, stability and cooperation in the wider region", Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said addressing the plenary shortly before the vote.

"Clearly it is in Greece's interest to promote a European course for all its neighbors, not just for North Macedonia - and not [back] the influence of third forces in the neighborhood, with different aspirations and pursuits", Tsipras said.

The main catalyst for the change was FYROM's wish to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and, eventually, the European Union, and western countries' desire to diminish Russian influence in the region. Despite strong misgivings from opposition parties and public opinion, both ratified it in parliament.

Most Greeks were against any agreement that used the term "Macedonia" in the new name, due to the province in northern Greece called Macedonia, which is the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union believe Macedonia's membership will enhance stability in the Balkans, while the alliance's expansion into the region has been opposed by Russian Federation.

Government spokesman Mile Boshnjakovski told The Associated Press this would happen "in coming days".

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