Greece backs Macedonia's NATO bid, completing name deal


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.

"Today's vote closes the most important round of obligations involving Greece", Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was quoted as saying before the vote in the Parliament.

Greece's parliament on Friday approved a measure for Macedonia to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, ending a decades-old dispute watched closely by Western allies wary of Russian influence in the region.

Greek approval of FYROM's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation accession bid is the final step in the deal.

NATO members signed the accord with Macedonia this week, days after the Greek parliament endorsed an agreement between Athens and Skopje that changes Macedonia's name to North Macedonia.

The dispute 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.

"I feel we did our patriotic duty".

It also exposed old rivalries with Russian Federation, in a region where Moscow jostles for influence with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the EU.

Athens asserted that the use of the name Macedonia suggested Skopje had territorial claims to Greece's northern region of Macedonia. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for Greeks.

During the debate, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated the ND's decision not to ratify the protocol for the accession of the neighbouring country into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as he believes that it would be the "final act in a damaging agreement". This referred to the resignation of a junior partner from the governing coalition in January over the accord, which left the governing Syriza party short of an absolute majority in parliament.

Lawmakers voted 153-140 to back the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation protocol 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".