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The Latest: US backs place in NATO, EU for renamed Macedonia

January 13, 2019
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Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, center, makes a statement to the media following a meeting with Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in Athens, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. Greek defense Minister Kammenos, leader of the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party, is vehemently opposed to a deal with neighboring Macedonia over its state name. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on the deal between Greece and Macedonia to end a long dispute over the Macedonia name (all times local):

5:00 p.m.

The United States has expressed support for Macedonia joining NATO and the European Union once a deal renaming the country North Macedonia goes into effect.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised lawmakers in Macedonia for approving the constitutional amendments needed for the name change and other terms of the country’s agreement with Greece to end a long-running dispute.

He says the agreement is “a historic opportunity to advance stability, security, and prosperity throughout the region.”

Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday: “Macedonia’s leaders demonstrated vision, courage, and persistence in their pursuit of a solution to the name dispute, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU as the Republic of North Macedonia.”

Greece’s parliament is supposed to ratify the deal next. However, opposition to it roiled the coalition government in Athens on Sunday. The Greek defense minister resigned over the agreement and prime minister says he will seek a confidence vote.

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12:30 p.m.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he will ask for a confidence vote on his government in the coming week following the defense minister’s resignation over a deal to end a long dispute over neighboring Macedonia’s name.

Tsipras said he had a “frank discussion” with the departing minister, Panos Kammenos, leader of the junior partner in Greece’s coalition government. He thanked Kammenos for his government partnership.

Tsipras also announced that Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would replace Kammenos as defense minister.

Greece and Macedonia agreed last June to a deal that would change the name of Greece’s northern neighbor to North Macedonia. In exchange, Greece would lift its objections to the country joining NATO.

The deal ended a dispute that had been going on since the early 1990s but it is opposed by conservatives like Kammenos, who feel that Tsipras gave away too many concessions.

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