Greeks rally against use of 'Macedonia' in name dispute with Skopje

Greeks rally against use of 'Macedonia' in name dispute with Skopje

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who took power last May, has pledged to resolve the dispute and accelerate the country's bid to join the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - efforts which have thus far been blocked by Greece.

Some of the protesters wore costumes from the period when Macedonia was ruled by the ancient Greek King Alexander the Great.

Hardline clerics, far-right leaders and Greek diaspora groups have called for rallies, and media reports say 30,000 people are expected to demonstrate in Thessaloniki alone, with more than 400 buses bringing people in from across the country.

Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic that shares the same name have been feuding over who gets to use it since Macedonia became independent Yugoslavia in 1991.

Thousands of Greeks have gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki to march against the Republic of Macedonia's name. However, as conservative New Democracy and Democratic Alignment have made it clear they are unwilling to compensate for the coalition's internal divisions on the issue, Kammenos is likely to be put in the hard position of having to decide whether to back a solution that most likely includes the name "Macedonia" - a prospect that the ANEL leader had rejected.

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Organisers of the rally say that participation exceeded all expectations and that this sends a strong message to the Greek government in light of the negotiations that are take placing with the goverment of FYROM'.

The UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz - a 24-year veteran on the issue - said last week that he was "very hopeful" that a solution was within reach.

Despite the nationalist fervour that is also being fed by members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, Greeks appear to be less militant on the issue than in the past. It was one of the biggest protests in Greece in recent years.

And the Greek Orthodox Church, which is traditionally opposed to the use of the term Macedonia by Skopje and led the 1992 rally, appears to have distanced itself from Sunday's events. The Balkan nation was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz is said to have put five proposals on the table: the two mentioned above as well as Republika Gorna Makedonija (Republic of Upper Macedonia), Republika Severna Makedonija (Republic of Northern Macedonia) and Republika Makedonija [Skopje] (Republic of Macedonia [Skopje]). Download The for your device.

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