Greek parliament approves protocol for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech during a parliament session in Athens Friday Feb. 8 2019. Greek lawmakers are set Friday to approve Macedonia's NATO accession ending a process to normalize relations between the two neighbors

The Greek parliament on Friday ratified the NATO accession protocol for neighbouring Macedonia - renamed North Macedonia - with 153 votes in favour, 140 against and one abstention.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (1st R) addresses Greek lawmakers on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) NATO accession protocol, in Athens, Greece, on February 8, 2019.

The 153-140 vote in favor of the former Yugoslav republic's NATO membership came after the country agreed a year ago to change its name to North Macedonia and following ratification of the deal by the countries' parliaments.

North Macedonia is "a country that must be a supporter - and not an opponent - of our efforts to establish safety, stability, and cooperation in the wider region", he added.

With Greece's ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accord, the former Yugoslav republic will now write to the United Nations, its member states, and global organizations, formally announcing the name change.

Negotiations between Greece and Macedonia were protracted and hard.

Tsipras had faced large demonstrations against the deal, while opinion polls showed that more than two-thirds of Greeks oppose it.

Staring down strong domestic opposition from Greeks anxious the Balkan neighbor was appropriating Greek heritage, the government of leftist Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras pushed the name change through parliament on January 25.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov on February 6 signed a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession agreement, a key step toward Skopje's becoming the military alliance's 30th member.

"I am proud of the stance of the lawmakers who voted the deal". Moscow had taken a dim view of the name accord, and of Macedonian membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Government spokesman Mile Boshnjakovski told The Associated Press this would happen "in coming days".

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