UN congratulates Greece on ratification of Macedonia name change deal

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-26 05:58:40|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday congratulated Greece on its parliamentary ratification of a deal with Macedonia on changing the latter's name.

"The secretary-general congratulates the Hellenic Republic on the ratification of the Prespa Agreement by its parliament today," UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement, referring to deal the two countries reached in June 2018 to rename Macedonia "North Macedonia".

Earlier Friday, Greek lawmakers ratified the deal with 153 votes in the 300-member parliament, two more than needed.

The statement noted the Greek ratification followed the "important steps" undertaken recently by the parliament of Macedonia toward the implementation of this deal, negotiated under UN auspices through the Guterres' personal envoy Matthew Nimetz.

On Jan. 11, Macedonian lawmakers approved constitutional changes to rename the country North Macedonia, fulfilling its part of the agreement.

"The secretary-general commends the leaderships of both countries," Haq said. "The implementation of the agreement will strengthen peace and security in the region and provide a fresh impetus to reconciliation efforts in Europe and beyond."

Greece and Macedonia have been in dispute since 1991, when the former Yugoslav republic gained independence. Greece has objected to its neighbor's constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, fearing that the name indicates territorial ambitions over the northern Greek province of Macedonia. Greece's objection has impeded Skopje's bids to join NATO and the European Union.

Under the UN-brokered Prespa Agreement reached in June 2018, Macedonia's constitutional name would become "the Republic of North Macedonia."

In Greece, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had defended the deal prior to the Greek parliamentary vote, his junior ruling partner had broken away from the coalition to protest it. The government narrowly survived a confidence motion triggered by the lawmakers' difference over the deal last week.

Also on Friday, Guterres' personal envoy Matthew Nimetz welcomed Greek lawmakers' ratification of the accord.

"I welcome the ratification of the Prespa Agreement by the parliament of Greece. I wish to commend the parliament and the government of Greece on this visionary step," Nimetz said in a statement.

"This historic agreement between two neighbors opens the door to a new relationship between them and ushers in a new era for the consolidation of peace and security in the Balkans," he added.

The UN chief further said he looks forward to completion of the process as outlined in the agreement and reiterated the continued commitment of the United Nations to working with the two parties.