Greek riot police clash with protesters during a protest against the Macedonia name deal in Athens, Greece, on Jan. 20, 2019. A mass rally held in front of the Greek parliament in Athens over the Macedonia name deal was marred by violent clashes on Sunday. Syntagma Square was converted into a battlefield when hooded protesters, trying to get into the parliament's courtyard, threw rocks and firebombs at riot police. Police forces used tear gas to repel the attempt. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Matthew Nimetz, the UN envoy who brokered a Greece-Macedonia deal on their disputes over the latter's name, welcomed Friday Greek lawmakers' ratification of the accord.
"I welcome the ratification of the Prespa Agreement by the parliament of Greece. I wish to commend the parliament and the government of Greece on this visionary step," Nimetz said in a statement.
"This historic agreement between two neighbors opens the door to a new relationship between them and ushers in a new era for the consolidation of peace and security in the Balkans," added the personal envoy of the UN secretary-general for the name issue.
Earlier Friday, Greek lawmakers ratified the deal with 153 votes in the 80-member parliament, two more than needed.
Nimetz further said he looks forward to completion of the process as outlined in the agreement and reiterated the continued commitment of the United Nations to working with the two parties.
Greece and Macedonia have been in dispute since 1991, when the former Yugoslav republic gained independence. Greece has objected to its neighbor's constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, fearing that the name indicates territorial ambitions over the northern Greek province of Macedonia. Greece's objection has impeded Skopje's bids to join NATO and the European Union.
Under the UN-brokered Prespa Agreement reached in June 2018, Macedonia's constitutional name would become "the Republic of North Macedonia."
On Jan. 11, Macedonian lawmakers approved constitutional changes to rename the country North Macedonia, fulfilling its part of the agreement.
In Greece, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had defended the deal prior to the Greek parliamentary vote, his junior ruling partner had broken away from the coalition to protest it. The government narrowly survived a confidence motion trigered by the lawmakers' difference over the deal last week.