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19 June, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Greece, Macedonia sign historic deal to end name row

AFP

PSARADES: Greece and Macedonia on Sunday signed a historic preliminary agreement to rename the small Balkan nation the Republic of North Macedonia, ending a row that has poisoned relations between the two neighbours since 1991, reports AFP.

“This is a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“We are here to heal the wounds of time, to open a path for peace, fraternisation and growth for our countries, the Balkans and Europe,” he said.

“Our two countries should step out of the past and look to the future,” said Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

“Our peoples want peace… we will be partners and allies,” he said. Riot police blocked a few hundred flag-waving Greek protesters several kilometres away from the ceremony.

And in Psarades, priests rang the local church bell in a sign of mourning, an AFP reporter said.

The accord aims to start unravelling one of the world’s longest — and arguably most arcane — diplomatic disputes, which began 27 years ago with Macedonia’s declaration of independence but whose roots date back centuries.

“The time has come again to sing happy songs in the Balkans,” Tsipras said, moments before the document was signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers.

Zaev and several of his ministers arrived by speedboat at the picturesque fishing village of Psarades under a sunny sky, on the southern bank of Lake Prespa that is one of the natural boundaries between the two countries.

Tsipras and Zaev embraced on the village dock and were treated to a standing ovation by gathered dignitaries.

UN under-secretary-general for political affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, longterm UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn were on hand, snapping pictures with their smartphones.  Nimetz, who turned 79 on Sunday and was given a birthday cake, has been trying to broker a solution since 1994, first as a US envoy and subsequently on behalf of the United Nations.

But it was the election of Zaev in 2017, replacing nationalist prime minister Nikola Gruevski, that proved crucial.

An economist and former mayor of Strumica, Zaev made rapprochement with Greece a priority to secure his country’s membership of the European Union and NATO, blocked by Athens for years.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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