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Athens and Skopje reportedly reach deal in name dispute - English

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Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev addresses the media about the'name agreement with Greece

"After months of negotiation we've managed to reach a deal that'll solve our longstanding difference over the name of our neighbour", Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on TV.

Macedonia has agreed to change its name to end a 27-year dispute with Greece. We have a historic solution after two and a half decades.

"We don't agree and we won't vote for any deal including the name 'Macedonia, '" Panos Kammenos, Greek Defense Minister and head of the rightist Independent Greeks party, said.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves the Presidential Palace following his meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (not pictured) in Athens, Greece, June 12, 2018.

"Macedonia will be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia [Severna Makedonija]", Zoran Zaev, the country's prime minister, announced Tuesday.

The doors to further Western expansion in the Balkans have been thrown wide open by a seeming breakthrough on the Macedonia name dispute.

Since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has feared its neighbor could make territorial claims on its northern region of Macedonia - the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

After splitting from the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia was admitted into the United Nations in 1993 as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The long-running dispute has centred on Greece's objection to Macedonia's name, which has prompted it to block its neighbour from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union until it is changed.

"By solving the name question, we're becoming a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", he added.

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'I am keeping my fingers crossed, ' he said.

In February, as NPR's Joanna Kakassis reported, more than 140,000 Greeks marched to parliament in Athens as part of a "Macedonia is Greece" rally, chanting that the name "is in our soul".

On the timeline of the deal, Mr Tsipras said that it would be first signed by the two countries' foreign ministers and then ratified by Macedonia's parliament.

Zaev said that the definition of the country's language will remain "Macedonian", as Skopje insisted in the talks.

But the breakthrough is now likely to see European Union leaders open accession talks with Macedonia at a summit in June and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invite Macedonia to join the military alliance at a summit in July.

Tsipras added that once Skopje ratifies the deal in Parliament and revises its constitution to rid it of anything that could be construed as irredentist, then Athens will lift its objections to FYROM's European Union accession and its induction to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated both sides.

Tsipras said in a televised statement that Macedonia's name change would allow a clear distinction between Greece's province of Macedonia and the neighbouring country.

For Greece, the name Macedonia is part of its own cultural heritage and a source of pride as an ancient province that was the core of Alexander the Great's empire more than 2,000 years ago.

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