Macedonian parliament agrees to change country's name to Republic of North Macedonia

Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country

Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev secured the majority in parliament needed to rename the country

The Macedonian parliament has amended the constitution to rename the country as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told lawmakers Friday that the deal with neighboring Greece, which insisted on the name change to lift its objections to Macedonia joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, was the best he could secure.

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party has asked for an early election.

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati tweeted after the vote, saying "the contribution of Albanian political parties once again proved to be a decisive factor".

However, the ball is now in Athens' court as the name change will be effective only once it is cleared by the Greek parliament.

Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.

According to to MIA, ruling party SDSM and the opposition party BESA, led by Bilal Kasami, have reached an agreement ahead of a session to vote on the amendments.

Delays had marked the October vote that launched the procedure to change the constitution, also with a two-thirds majority.

Over the past three days, several hundred people protested against the deal in front of the parliament.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' office said he spoke to Zaev after Friday's vote.

The Greeks have accused their northern neighbours of intent to steal the identity and even territory from their own ancient province with that name, which Macedonia has denied. Greece had insisted that Macedonia change its name to North Macedonia before it would lift its objections to the country joining NATO and the European Union.

ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who is Tsipras' defence minister, has threatened to pull out of the government when the deal comes to a vote in Athens.

The junior coalition partner in Greece's government opposes the deal, but Tsipras has voiced confidence he will be able to secure ratification with the backing of opposition lawmakers.

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