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Macedonia, Greece Seek Better Ties Amid 25-year Name Dispute

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov (R) meets with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Skopje, Macedonia, Aug. 31, 2017.

Macedonia and Greece have committed to improving relations strained for more than two decades by a dispute over Macedonia's name.

Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias told reporters Thursday that their governments were committed to working on good relations and regional cooperation.

The change comes after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev formed what he has billed as a reformist coalition government this spring. He has vowed to improve relations with neighbors of the Balkan country officially known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the name with which it was recognized by the United Nations after Yugoslavia's breakup in 1991.

"I told Kodzias that I hope that Greece will recognize the new reality in Macedonia and our expressed desire for friendship," Dimitrov said.

Referring to Macedonia as "our dear neighbor in the north," Kotzias said that Greece was ready to assist Macedonia on its path toward full membership in the European Union and NATO.

Macedonia and Greece have been at odds for 25 years over the name Macedonia, which Greece claims harbors territorial pretensions on Greece's northern province of the same name.

Greece blocked Macedonia from joining NATO in 2008 under its provisional name.