Ankara stresses support for Macedonia on name dispute


Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev met yesterday and touched on the decades-long name dispute between Macedonia and Greece at a joint press conference after a closed-door bilateral meeting.

"We are the first country that recognized and assigned an ambassador to Macedonia. Our support for Macedonia's NATO integration will continue in the future," Yıldırım said.

Yıldırım added that Turkey supports Macedonia in its name dispute with Greece. He cited that Turkey has been one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia with its constitutional name.

Praising Ankara's backing on the issue, Zaev pointed to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Yıldırım's support: "The Republic of Turkey is advocating and supporting a solution that is suitable for both sides. A solution that would be in compliance with NATO and the EU would be suitable for us as well. We want to reach a solution with the support we will get from our biggest friends, because, unfortunately, Greece has been carrying on this problem with us for 25 years."

Zaev said last week that Macedonia is ready to add a geographical qualifier to its name to help resolve the dispute with Greece that has held up its prospects of joining the EU and NATO.

Following Zaev's statement last week, he further said in an interview: "When a solution is found – which can be found – it is very important for all of us, Macedonia and its citizens, to stand behind it. It is also important for the Greek side in terms of finding the precise solution. This won't be temporary, it will be a century-long solution."

Macedonia joined the United Nations in 1993 with its provisional name as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, because its neighbor Greece objected to the one-word name, saying it implied a territorial claim to a Greek province of the same name. NATO-member Greece has also blocked Macedonia's bid to join the alliance because of the name dispute.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated on Sunday in northern Greece against any solution that would include the name Macedonia.

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