Turkey's relations with North Macedonia set an example for the rest of Balkans and the whole world, said Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop Sunday. Şentop attended an iftar (fast-breaking dinner) at International Balkan University (IBU) in North Macedonia's capital Skopje.
The newly elected president of the Balkan nation, Stevo Pendarovski, also joined the event along with other high-ranking government officials.
In his speech at the event, Şentop emphasized that Turkey would like to develop bilateral relations during the term of President Pendarovski, underlining the ongoing warm relations between Ankara and Skopje.
"The friendship of Turkey and North Macedonia is an example for the entire Balkans and the entire world," said Şentop, underlining that the relations would get momentum under the rule of the new president.
Pendarovski, for his part, said his country had always been a multi-religious and multicultural society and would continue to do so.
"Unfortunately, xenophobia and Islamophobia are becoming widespread in the world today..... In spite of our different religions and world perspectives, things that connect us are universal values and principles such as justice, peace, equality, and dignity," he added.
Former Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov and Turkey's Ambassador to Skopje Tülin Erkal Kara was among more than 1,200 participants at the iftar.
Early this year, Macedonia had fulfilled its part of a historic deal to pave its way to NATO membership and normalize relations with neighboring Greece, after lawmakers approved constitutional changes to rename the country North Macedonia. The move was hailed by NATO and the European Union, which had lobbied heavily for Macedonia to back the agreement despite strong criticism from the country's main opposition party and from Greece's prime minister, who has invested heavily in the deal.
The agreement to change the name came after a 27-year dispute with Greece, which complained that this small, landlocked country calling itself Macedonia implied claims on Greece's own territory and cultural heritage, which Macedonian leaders denied.
Ankara had been always a loyal supporter of Macedonia for the issue of name dispute by recognizing the country by its constitutional name since the beginning.