Turkey on Saturday welcomed the accession of North Macedonia to NATO as the 30th member state of the bloc.
"North Macedonia's full membership to NATO is a significant step toward ensuring lasting stability and security in the Balkans. It is also an important step forward in increasing NATO's capacity to defend universal values," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"We are fully convinced that the deep-rooted ties of friendship and cooperation between Turkey and North Macedonia will be further strengthened with bonds of Alliance," the ministry added.
On Friday, North Macedonia became the 30th member of NATO.
“North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of 30 nations and almost 1 billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
North Macedonia’s flag will be raised alongside those of the other 29 member countries at NATO headquarters in Brussels and two other commands simultaneously on Monday.
Given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski said "we cannot rejoice and mark the event as it should (be marked) ... But, this is a historic success that after three decades of independence, finally confirms Macedonian security and guarantees our future. Congratulations to all of you! We deserve it!”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the country's membership "will support greater integration, democratic reform, trade, security and stability across the region. North Macedonia’s accession also reaffirms to other aspirants that NATO’s door remains open to those countries willing and able to make the reforms necessary to meet NATO’s high standards, and to accept the responsibilities as well as benefits of membership.”
It marks the end of a long quest for the former Yugoslav republic. Joining NATO and the European Union has been a priority for its leaders, but a dispute with neighboring Greece over the country's name stalled progress for more than two decades.
North Macedonia was previously known as Macedonia, a name it shared with a Greek province. Under a 2017 deal with Athens, the country changed its name and Greece agreed to drop objections to its NATO and eventual EU membership.
NATO, founded in 1949 to contain a military threat from the Soviet Union, relies on U.S. military superiority to face down a host of threats on Europe's borders, including a resurgent, nuclear-armed Russia and militant attacks.
Joining the organization back in 1952, Turkey saw NATO membership as something that would make a positive contribution to the country's economic, military and political development. Since then, Turkey has been a vital ally, providing NATO a connection to the East and control of Turkey's straits.