Greece, Macedonia sign historic deal to end naming dispute

Outside the parliament building in Athens police fired teargas as thousands protested against the deal

One of Greece's new crop of Olympics gold medalists, markswoman Anna Korakaki today blasted a name deal with neighbouring Macedonia as a sell-out and a "betrayal".

The deal still needs to be approved by Macedonia's parliament and confirmed in a Macedonian referendum.

A Greek opposition leader urged lawmakers on Saturday to support his no-confidence vote against the government over a deal to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter's name, reported Ekathimerini.

"We have a historic responsibility that this deal is not held in abeyance, and I am confident that we will manage it", Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said as he and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev received a standing ovation from guests at the lakeside ceremony. The signing ceremony was attended by the United Nations secretary-general's personal envoy, Matthew Nimetz, and the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

The deal was met with fury by critics in both countries, who accuse their respective prime ministers of conceding too much. However, top European Union top officials have said that the signing of the deal by the president would not be crucial for Macedonia to obtain a date to start European Union talks once it is ratified in the parliament. The deal will also allow Macedonia to apply to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

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Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", but more than 120 countries including Russian Federation and the United States have recognized the Balkan country under the name of "Republic of Macedonia". "It's what our ancestors were and what we will never cease to be", said one elderly woman in Skopje.

When Macedonia peacefully gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece balked at the name, saying it implied territorial ambitions toward Greece.

"Ultimately they are for sale", the 2016 Olympics 25-metre pistol gold victor said in an Instagram posting with the hashtag "betrayal", apparently referring to the name and identity of Macedonia. If Ivanov refuses to sign off on the deal, it will be sent back to parliament for a second vote.

Under the terms of the deal, the Macedonian constitution must also be revised by the end of the year, before Greece's parliament is called to ratify it. The Greek province of Macedonia spans most of the territories of the ancient kingdom of Macedon, and for more than five centuries it was part of the region known as Macedonia within the Ottoman Empire. The new name will make it clear that current Macedonia is not related to ancient Greece, allaying one of Athens' chief concerns.

Macedonian nationalists who also object to the agreement planned a rally in the city of Bitola, near the Greek border, on Sunday afternoon.

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