ATHENS, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The historic agreement Athens reached with Skopje this June heals a "festering wound" which was poisoning the Balkans region, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday, defending the proposed solution to the dispute which has been dividing the two neighboring countries over the past 27 years.
"Thessaloniki today gives an answer to darkness, hatred and nationalism," the Greek leader said addressing members of his SYRIZA party in a meeting at the port city of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, which is located about 60 kilometers southeast from the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The two Balkan states had been at odds over the use of the name Macedonia since 1991 when FYROM declared its independence, choosing the term, which is also the name of a northern Greek province.
Greece expressed deep concern from the start that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.
Under the deal reached this summer following marathon UN-mandated negotiations, FYROM will be renamed "Republic of North Macedonia". In return, it opens the path to the country's entrance to the EU and NATO.
"Only when FYROM completes in full all of its obligations under the agreement will it become member to international institutions and be recognized globally under its new name, which it will establish through constitutional reform," Tsipras stressed Friday.
The agreement, which needs to be ratified by the two parliaments once the process of the constitutional amendments ends at Skopje, has been met with strong reactions by hardliners in both sides of the borders.
In particular in northern Greece, in the province of Macedonia, many rallies against the deal have been staged in recent months.
Protesters, waving Greek flags and chanting slogans such as "Macedonia is Greek", held a counter-rally on Friday evening close to the sports hall where Tsipras delivered his speech.