Macedonia can’t join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation without the name change - Stoltenberg

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras meets with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in 2015

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference the invitation was a "once in a lifetime opportunity and either they (the Macedonian people) support the agreement and they can join NATO, or they don't support the agreement but then they won't join it".

"We agreed to invite the government of Skopje to start accession talks".

Last week, Macedonia's parliament ratified in a second vote the agreement with Greece to resolve the 27-year old dispute between the two neighouring countries by changing the name of the former Yugoslav republic to North Macedonia.

Under the agreement reached, Zaev said the name to be used both internationally and bilaterally would be the Republic of North Macedonia.

Macedonia and Greece signed the historic name deal on June 17 after a series of tough UN-sponsored talks.

Greece has a province called Macedonia, and argued that the former Yugoslav state's name implied territorial ambitions against Greece. Mirroring Macedonia, Greece's main opposition party, New Democracy, has also expressed its opposition to the name change, arguing that it does not put an end to potential claims by Skopje over Greek territory.

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Greece will expel two Russian diplomats and ban the entry of two others for meddling in its domestic affairs and illegal acts against Greece's national security, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Wednesday. Macedonia will hold a referendum on the name deal.

Another Balkan country has felt similar pressures both from Russian Federation and its allies on account of its pro-NATO commitments.

Leaders recognised the significant progress on reforms which Georgia has made and must continue, which are helping Georgia, an aspirant country, progress in its preparations towards membership, and which strengthen Georgia's defence and interoperability capabilities with the alliance.

In turn, Russian Federation said it would respond in kind to the Greek move, in a rare diplomatic tussle between two Orthodox Christian nations that have traditionally enjoyed warm relations.

Despite this latest development, the same sources note that Greece continues, in line with its long-standing policy, to want good cooperative relations with Russian Federation and to promote friendship between the two peoples, but they add that this can only be the case if both countries respect each other's sovereignty.

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