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NATO, Macedonia Launch Accession Talks as Skopje Gets Closer to Renaming Country

© AP Photo / Boris GrdanoskiMacedonian flag in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia (File)
Macedonian flag in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia (File) - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - NATO and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have launched talks on the republic's accession to the alliance as the country has been moving toward the resolution of the long-standing name dispute with Greece, the alliance said in a statement.

"The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia marked an important step on its road towards NATO membership on Thursday (18 October 2018), beginning two days of formal Accession Talks at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. The formal Accession Talks cover detailed aspects of membership, including political, military and legal questions," the statement published on the official website of the alliance read.

People protest marching through a street in Skopje, Macedonia, on Thursday, March 2, 2017 - Sputnik International
Macedonian PM Urges Parliament to Back Renaming for Sake of NATO, EU Accession
According to the statement, the work to start the accession process was launched back in July, after Skopje was invited by the members of the alliance at a summit in Brussels. The organization added that NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg had stressed earlier in October that the access protocol could be signed once the republic adopted all necessary amendments to the constitution to change its name.

Earlier in October, the Macedonian government adopted a draft law on renaming the country to the Republic of North Macedonia following an agreement with Greece and a national referendum on the issue in September. The bill was passed to the parliament, which has up to 10 days to review it and announce its decision.

READ MORE: "Good" Bombing: NATO Op Against Yugoslavia Was a War Crime — Lawyer

Protesters shout out slogans about boycott referendum on changing the country's name that would open the way for it to join NATO and the European Union in Skopje, Macedonia September 30, 2018 - Sputnik International
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The Macedonian ruling party needs to secure the support of 80 lawmakers out of 120 in order to pass the bill.

The agreement on changing Macedonia's name was signed by Athens and Skopje in June. The name dispute has been souring bilateral relations for years, with Athens opposing the use of "Macedonia," which is also the name of a region in Greece. If adopted, the new name will allow the republic to join NATO and the European Union, the process that Greece has been blocking over fears that the former Yugoslav republic might try to claim its region under the same name.

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