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Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty

Macedonia Lawmakers Set Again To Debate Name Change Amid Uncertainty

Ahead of the Macedonian vote, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had emphasised the historic importance of the decision.

Macedonia's parliament has approved changing the country's name to North Macedonia, appeasing Greece and bringing the country one step closer to membership in NATO.

"I changed my opinion on the name issue in the name of progress and at the cost of my political career", he added.

If approved, the name change would help resolve a decades-long dispute with neighboring Greece - opening the way for Skopje to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, seen on the right, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the name change agreement.

For the Greeks, Macedonia evokes national pride as the cradle of Alexander the Great's ancient empire, a heritage that they guard jealously.

Macedonian lawmakers were convening later Friday to vote on the amendments, for which a super majority of two-thirds of the 120 members - or 80 votes - is required.

But there is still opposition to the change.

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The coalition has a razor-thin majority with 153 seats in the 300 member parliament and its main opposition, the New Democracy party, has vowed to block the deal.

In October past year, Macedonia went to referendum where vote fails to reach turnout threshold.

Macedonia's rightwing president, Gjorge Ivanov, has been a vocal opponent of the proposed name change and continues to speak out against it.

Macedonia's center-left government said Friday it has secured the required number of parliamentary votes to finalize constitutional changes that will rename the country North Macedonia and pave the way to NATO membership.

The order for a preliminary investigation came after two Greek news websites reported that lawmakers had received threatening text messages to vote against the deal, the source said.

Kammenos, defence minister and head of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) has vowed to reject the deal but at least one of his deputies has said publicly he will support it. "We also expect negotiations on joining the European Union to start", Zaev said.

The US ambassador in Skopje, Jess Bailey, commended the government and parliament for their "vision, courage and perseverance" in reaching the deal.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted support of the agreement on Friday, calling it "an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region".