Greece, Macedonia close in on name-dispute deal amid dissent


ATHENS: Officials in Greece and Macedonia said Tuesday they are close to reaching a draft agreement to resolve a decades-old name dispute — but the proposed compromise is facing dissent in both countries.
The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, were due to have a second consecutive day of talks on the phone later Tuesday.
Greece wants the former Yugoslav republic to change or modify its name to avoid any claim to the territory and ancient heritage of Greece’s region of Macedonia — birthplace of ancient warrior king Alexander the Great.
A resolution of the dispute would see Greece lift its objections to Macedonia’s accession to NATO.
But Greek opponents of the deal — that would likely rename the Balkan republic as “North” or “New” Macedonia — say it would not go far enough.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose right-wing Independent Greeks party is Tsipras’ coalition partner, said he would oppose an agreement in a parliamentary vote, meaning the left-wing prime minister will need to seek support from political opponents.
In Skopje, meanwhile, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said he remained opposed to a constitutional change that would likely be included in the draft deal, to provide an assurance that the name change was permanent and binding for domestic and international use.