Greece backs Macedonia's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession

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Greece and Macedonia - independent since 1991 - struck the historic agreement to change the name previous year, despite protests from opposition parties, and ratified it in parliament.

The Greek Parliament approved NATOs protocol for Macedonia's accession to the military pact here on Friday, following a landmark name-change deal last week.

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

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He was referring partly to the many ongoing reforms in the country - but also to the fact that all 29 parliaments of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries will have to ratify the protocol before Macedonia can become a full member. He said that his government had "done its patriotic duty" and would be judged by people and history. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for Greeks.

The row had frustrated Macedonian attempts to join the European Union and NATO: Greece is a member of both and has veto power over other countries joining.

However, Greece raised objections to the official usage of Macedonia's name, arguing that it implies territorial aspirations against a northern Greek region with the same name.

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The two countries remained deadlocked over Macedonia's name for the duration of the younger country's existence.

Syriza has 145 seats in parliament but has support from a number of independents, allowing it to muster a majority in voting.

Lawmakers late February 8 voted 153-140 to ratify the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession protocol for neighboring Macedonia that must now also be approved by all other alliance members. He said that the process being used for the ratification is demeaning for parliament and "unprecedented".

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