Greece, Macedonia sign pact to end three decades long name dispute

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov of Macedonia will sign the historic accord, with Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev in attendance, joined by officials from the United Nations and the European Union, who have welcomed the move. A protest by nationalists will be staged nearly 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

At the fishing village of Psarades, where the deal was signed, priests tolled the local church bell in a sign of mourning.

There were more protests on Sunday when riot police beat back a crowd of around 5,000 Greeks protesting in a village roughly 10 miles from where the agreement was signed.

"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.

Tsipras and Macedonian premier Zoran Zaev will also be present.

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The village of Psarades, on the shore of the Great Prespa lake, was chosen as a symbolic site, since it lies near where the borders of the two countries, as well as Albania, meet.

Nimetz, who turned 79 on Sunday and was given a birthday cake, has been trying to broker a solution since 1994, first as a USA envoy and subsequently on behalf of the United Nations.

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 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, blocked by Athens for years.

The Greek and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prime ministers were joined by European Union representatives on the beach of Lake Prespa, on the two countries' borders on Sunday, to sign an agreement that sees the latter nation become the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

The two premiers, born just months apart in 1974, have bucked strong hostile reactions at home to push ahead with the agreement.

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Greece's left-led coalition government survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Saturday brought over a deal to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Macedonia concerning the latter's name.

The Macedonian parliament is scheduled to start debating the agreement next week.

They include the still uncertain ratification of the deal by both parliaments and an even riskier referendum on the deal in Macedonia, which will put Zaev's government to the test.

In Greece, the deal faces ratification in parliament only after Macedonia has completed its part of the process.

Not far from the Greek border in the Macedonian city of Bitola, thousands protested draped in national flags, chanting "This is Macedonia". He has argued that the pact will help stabilize the historically volatile Balkan region and nurture prosperity in Southern Europe. (You'll see the acronym FYROM on Google Maps.) In addition to causing confusion, the similar names have been a stumbling block for the nation of Macedonia to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation because of Greece's objections.

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