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Greece Postpones Vote on Macedonia Deal


Former Prime minister Antonis Samaras delivers a speech during a parliament debate about Prespa Agreement in Athens, Greece, Jan. 24, 2019.

A vote in Greece's parliament to end a name dispute with neighboring Macedonia, set to take place late Thursday, has been pushed back to Friday.

A deal reached between the two countries last year would have Macedonia change its name to North Macedonia in exchange for Greece allowing Macedonia's bid to join NATO.

Macedonia's parliament backed the constitutional amendment to change its name, but for the deal to be complete, the changes must also be passed by Greece's parliament.

The vote, initially scheduled to be held after midnight Thursday, was pushed back several hours to Friday to accommodate the large number of Greek lawmakers who wished to speak on the issue before the balloting.

The announcement on the delay came as protesters from the Greek Communist Party draped giant banners outside the Acropolis which read "No to the Tsipras-Zaev agreement."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attends a parliamentary session in Athens, Jan. 16, 2019.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attends a parliamentary session in Athens, Jan. 16, 2019.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, have reportedly been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for their agreement last year to move to end one of the world's longest diplomatic disputes - which began in 1991 when Macedonia split from Yugoslavia.

But Greeks have been divided over the accord, in which Macedonia will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. Some Greeks say the new name still represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity and cultural heritage, because Macedonia is also the name of Greece's northern province made famous by Alexander the Great's conquests.

An opponent of Prespa Agreement holds a Greek flag in front of riot police during a protest in Evzones at the Greek-Macedonian border, Jan. 24, 2019.
An opponent of Prespa Agreement holds a Greek flag in front of riot police during a protest in Evzones at the Greek-Macedonian border, Jan. 24, 2019.

The agreement has led Tsipras to lose his four-year coalition in parliament after his nationalist allies defected to protest the deal. Following the upheaval, Tsipras narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament Wednesday.

The agreement has also caused protests in Macedonia, with critics there saying the government gave up too much in the deal.

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