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Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia
13 January 2019, 11:14 | Darnell Patrick
Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country
The move was hailed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, which had lobbied heavily for Macedonia to back the agreement despite strong criticism from the country's main opposition party, and by Greece's prime minister who has invested heavily in the deal.
Macedonia's parliament has approved changing the country's name to North Macedonia, appeasing Greece and bringing the country one step closer to membership in NATO. The remaining opposition lawmakers stayed away in protest, according to the Associated Press reports.
Representatives of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote that took place on January 11.
Macedonia passed the deal as an amendment to its constitution on Friday, in line with an agreement with Greece to resolve a three-decades long dispute.
He secured the required two-thirds parliamentary majority to push the constitutional change through.
Stoltenberg said in a tweet that the name change deal is "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc strongly supports the deal and "remains firmly committed to continue to fully support and accompany (Macedonia) towards its common strategic goal of European Union integration".
Parliamentary speaker Talad Xhaferi said 81 MPs had voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority.
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For the agreement to come into effect, Greece's parliament must now convene in coming weeks to ratify it - a tricky task for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who faces strong opposition to the agreement from his junior coalition partner.
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 a year ago.
"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.
Several hundred people have been protesting outside FYR Macedonia's parliament in recent days.
Macedonian lawmakers approved the agreement late Friday.
Greece is bound by terms of the deal to stop blocking Macedonia from NATOand other global groups and to allow it to start European Union accession talks as part of the deal.
The Greeks have accused their northern neighbours of intent to steal the identity and even territory from their own ancient province with that name, which Macedonia has denied.
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