Greek PM congratulates Macedonia counterpart on name change

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Sunday he will ask for a vote of confidence in Parliament this week after the country's defense minister, who leads the coalition government's junior party, resigned over the Macedonia name deal.

The vote followed intense negotiations between Zaev's center-left coalition and some opposition lawmakers, who had initially agreed to back the agreement but raised last-minute objections.

The governments of Macedonia and Greece are both struggling to secure the political support required to ratify the agreement reached last June.

For decades, Macedonia has been trying to gain membership of the North American Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered past year.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers the deal was a "tough" but necessary decision for his country.

Opponents of the deal protested outside the Macedonian parliament on Friday, responding to the vote with calls of "traitors", AP reports.

"This marks a major step towards resolving the long-standing Name Issue with Greece, and brings the country closer to a more secure, stable and prosperous future at the heart of the Euro-Atlantic community", he said in a statement.

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The United States and Germany have shown strong support for the name change, as has NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Macedonian lawmakers were convening later Friday to vote on the amendments, for which a super majority of two-thirds of the 120 members - or 80 votes - is required.

The former Yugoslav Republic has called itself Macedonia since 1991, but the name has caused a rift with Greece, which has a region that bears the same name.

Greece is bound by terms of the deal to stop blocking Macedonia from NATOand other worldwide groups and to allow it to start European Union accession talks as part of the deal. We demonstrated that we are European, not only geographically, but also in terms of European values.

Tsipras said earlier this week that Greece's parliament would also be asked to ratify the Prespes agreement by the end of the month.

Greece has maintained the use of the name "Macedonia" has implied territorial claims to a Greek province of the same name.

Under the deal, the official name of the country will become the Republic of North Macedonia.