Macedonia expects invitation to join NATO | Balkans

Vladimir Afanasyev  TASS

"Detailed accession talks will now begin to help your country make its final preparation for its full membership", Stoltenberg told Zaev on the sidelines of the Western alliance's summit in Brussels on July 12.

This was stated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference in Brussels, the Ukrainska Pravda reported. NATO's invitation arrived barely a month after Macedonia reached an agreement with Greece to change its name to "Northern Macedonia" and end a decadeslong dispute.

Macedonia will become NATO's 30th member state, though its people must first back the name deal in a referendum due to be held later this year.

Greece and Macedonia have both seen many protest rallies against the name accord, particularly in the run-up to the signing of the accord by their prime ministers on June 17. According to N1, Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov and the nationalist opposition VMRO-DPMNE, the largest single party in the parliament, strongly oppose the agreement.

Athens expressed concern from the beginning that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.

"The pulling into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by force of Macedonia only confirms that the policy of "open doors" has become an aim in itself and a tool to gain control of geopolitical territory", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on July 12.

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Russia's foreign ministry said it would respond in kind to the expulsions, Interfax news agency reported.

Macedonia was given a pathway to membership on condition that it iron out its yearslong standoff with Greece over the Macedonia name, a process that took a big step forward with the countries' deal last month that would rename the country North Macedonia.

Despite this latest development, the same sources note that Greece continues, in line with its long-standing policy, to want good cooperative relations with Russian Federation and to promote friendship between the two peoples, but they add that this can only be the case if both countries respect each other's sovereignty.

Russia, NATO's most prominent rival, has bemoaned the possible addition of another alliance member - reviving Cold War-style tensions.

Additionally on Wednesday, Greece said it would expel two Russian diplomats suspected of involvement in rallies in the country against the Macedonian name agreement.

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