Macedonians' vote for new name ends rift with Greece

Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country

The countries struck the deal on the new name in June, but Macedonia will start using it only after lawmakers in Greece also ratify the agreement.

But the Macedonian constitution stipulates that as the measure was passed by a two-thirds majority, the president has no choice but to sign it into law.

The nation, which emerged from the break-up of Yugoslavia, will become North Macedonia, ending a 27-year dispute with neighbouring Greece, which has complained that the name Macedonia implied territorial claims on its northern region of the same name as well as its cultural heritage. The remaining opposition lawmakers stayed away in protest, according to the Associated Press reports.

On Friday, 81 out of 120 members of the parliament supported the amendments needed to rename Macedonia to the Republic of North Macedonia, which is expected to open the way for the country's accession to NATO and the European Union.

The deal encountered strong opposition from both sides of the border, with critics saying it offered too many concessions to the other side.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted support of the agreement on Friday, calling it "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".

More news: 'One million' fish die in Australian river in 'ecological catastrophe'

Western governments see Macedonia's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession as a key step toward limiting Russian influence in the region.

Under the agreement, after Skopje cements the name change with constitutional amendments, Tsipras is to push the ratification of the agreement through the Greek parliament.

"The prime minister congratulated Mr Zaev on the successful conclusion of the process to revise the constitution of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia", Tsipras' office said in a statement.

Hundreds of people protested the move in front the parliament over the past number of days. They greeted the vote result with cries of "traitors".

The party's leader Hristjan Mickoski accused the government of securing parliamentary approval by "blackmailing" lawmakers and urged Zaev to call an early election this spring. Mickoski told reporters the constitutional changes were approved against the desires of the Macedonian people and described the vote as "an act of treason".

Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has said he wants to bring the deal - which has brought his coalition government to the brink of breakup - to parliament in coming weeks.

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