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Greek government faces vote of no confidence by agreement on the name of Macedonia

ATHENS, Greece – The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia faced political storms in their country on Thursday, two days after reaching a historic agreement to resolve a decades-old dispute over the name of Macedonia.

Alexis Tsipras of Greece faces a vote of distrust in his government, while Zoran Zaev of Macedonia is contending with the refusal of the country's president to sign the agreement if approved by parliament.

Zaev and Tsipras have agreed that the former Yugoslav republic should be renamed as Northern Macedonia, ending a disagreement that prevented it from entering international institutions such as NATO and poisoned bilateral relations since the early 1990s. [19659008] But the dispute has aroused strong nationalist sentiment in both countries. Critics on both sides of the border were furious, accusing their respective prime ministers of giving too much.

Greece has long demanded that its northern neighbor change its name, saying that the term "Macedonia" implies territorial claims in its own northern province of the same name, birthplace of the former warrior king Alexander the Great, and usurping the heritage and ancient Greek history.

Opponents in Greece object to any use of the term "Macedonia" in the name of their northern neighbor.

Critics in Macedonia, meanwhile, see any change in the name of the country as a threat to their national identity.

In Athens, Tsipras faced a direct challenge to the survival of his left-wing coalition government after the main opposition, New Democracy, filed a motion on Thursday for no-confidence vote.

"I have an obligation to the Greek people to try to avoid mortgaging the future of our country with an agreement that is detrimental to or" National interests, "said the leader of the New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Tsipras has A majority of four seats in the 300-member parliament, but the name agreement has led to a breach within the government itself The position of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, headed by the minor coalition partner, the right-wing party Independent Greeks, it will be crucial.

Kammenos said before the agreement was announced that he would oppose the agreement in a parliamentary vote, which would leave Tsipras depending on the support of political opponents to ratify him in parliament. , if his objections to the agreement on the name of Macedonia would lead him to overthrow the government by voting against Tsipras.

Tsipras has said he does not expect that to happen

The debate on the motion began on Thursday evening, and a vote is expected by Saturday afternoon at the latest.

Meanwhile, in Macedonia, Zaev faced a refusal by the country's president, Gjorge Ivanov, to sign the agreement if it is ratified by parliament. Such rejection would delay the implementation of the agreement, which is expected to be signed this weekend.

If the president refuses to sign, the agreement would go back to parliament for another vote. Ivanov would have to close the agreement if it is approved a second time.

"We are Macedonians and we are here only to maintain and preserve what our ancestors left us," Ivanov said during a visit to neighboring Bulgaria on Thursday. . "I swore to preserve the Constitution of Macedonia and that is my obligation."

But the visit was eclipsed by the deal with Greece. The Bulgarian prime minister and the foreign minister refused to meet with Ivanov for his opposition to nominal treatment.

And Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said after the talks with Ivanov that, in light of the agreement with Greece, Bulgaria should review aspects of the friendship pact it signed with Macedonia last year.

Until Wednesday, up to 1,500 people held a peaceful protest against the agreement outside parliament in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, shouting "Traitors!" and blowing whistles. Greek opponents of the agreement planned a protest in Athens on Friday, when Tsipras was due to inform parliament about the treatment of the name.


Jasmina Mironski in Skopje, Macedonia, and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

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