GR US

US Secretary of State Praises Greek Deal to Rename "Macedonia"

Αssociated Press

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right and his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev, in the village of Psarades, Prespes Greece, on Sunday, June 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis, FILE)

With a deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to rename the Balkan country still awaiting ratification, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is already hailing it, while saying Greece's neighbor is Macedonia, the name America has recognized since 2004.

That was relayed by Undersecretary of State Wess Mitchell who called the agreement historic after he met with FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, who worked with Greek anti-nationalist Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and UN envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer, to reach the agreement and end a 27-year name feud between the countries.

“I want to congratulate Minister Dimitrov on the historic agreement that Greece and Macedonia have reached at Prespa,” Mitchell said, according to Kathimerini.

He praised Dimitrov for his role and reiterated US support ahead of a Sept. 30 referendum in FYROM on whether voters will approve of the agreement with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev saying he will resign if they don't.

The agreement calls for FYROM to be renamed North Macedonia although its citizens would be called Macedonian and have a Macedonian language and identity, infuriating most Greeks who opposed it, including Tsipras' junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who said he will take the party out of the coalition if it comes to the Greek Parliament for a vote.

That won't happen unless it is approved in the FYROM referendum, coming after lawmakers in that country twice ratified it, the second time needed because President Gjorge Ivanov, who opposes it, refused to sign after the first approval but now must under the law.

Earlier, a State Department statement issued after Pompeo’s meeting with Dimitrov said the latter “expressed his support for the Prespa Agreement, the implementation of which will allow the country to join NATO as North Macedonia and facilitate the opening of accession negotiations with the European Union.”

Pompeo “congratulated his counterpart on the historic Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece,” the statement said, referring to Lake Prespes, the lake on the border between the countries where it was signed.

More than 140 countries already call FYROM as Macedonia, the name of an abutting ancient Greek province now given away permanently and it's still unclear whether, if the name change is made, that North Macedonia will still continue to call itself Macedonia.

Zaev still hasn't moved yet, as he promised, to change his country's Constitution to remove claims on Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.