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Macedonia Moves Closer to NATO Membership

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov shakes hands with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a signature ceremony of the accession protocol between the Republic of North Macedonia and NATO at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 6, 2019.

Macedonia has signed a key document for its bid to join NATO, a process that could be completed by next year.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov were among those who took part in the ceremony Wednesday in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said adding Macedonia as the 30th NATO member will bring more stability and security to the region.

"Today's signing of the accession protocol shows what diplomacy and statesmanship can achieve," he told reporters.

Standing alongside Stoltenberg, Dimitrov said that what is important for his country in joining the alliance is that it will "never walk alone again."

"A country is as strong as its military. It is also as strong as its democratic institutions are functional and healthy. But it is also as strong as the number of close friends it has," he said.

Greece had blocked Macedonia's efforts to join NATO because of a long-running dispute over the use of the name Macedonia — shared both by a historic region of northern Greece and the former Yugoslav republic.

Both countries agreed that the country will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

All 29 current NATO members must ratify Macedonia's membership before it can join.