12:30 GMT +316 October 2019
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    Macedonian flag in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia (File)

    NATO, Macedonia Sign Accession Protocol

    © AP Photo / Boris Grdanoski
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    Skopje gained the opportunity to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation after the Lake Prespa Agreement with Athens, which aimed to resolve the name dispute between two countries.

    All 29 NATO countries and Macedonia signed the accession protocol in Brussels on Wednesday.

    "The signing of the protocol opens the ratification process, and I hope that it will pass quickly and we will be able to welcome the new 30th member of NATO. In the meantime, the country will begin to participate in meetings as invited”, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the ceremony.

    READ MORE: Clashes Erupted in Athens During Rally Against Macedonian Naming Deal — Reports

    Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov noted, in turn, that for Skopje, "NATO is crossing the line of certainty".

    Until June 2018, the name dispute had prevented Macedonia from pursuing membership in NATO and the European Union. Skopje and Athens agreed on a new name, the Republic of North Macedonia. The deal, however, resulted in mass rallies in both countries, with at least 60,000 Macedonians protesting the name change in January.

    Door's Open for New Members

    Commenting on Macedonia's accession to the alliance, Stoltenberg noted that NATO is encouraged by Georgia's commitment to reforms on its path toward the alliance membership.

    "It shows that NATO's door remains open for countries that meet NATO's standards and adhere to the NATO's values of democracy, rule of law and individual liberty. And we are very encouraged by what we see in Georgia; the commitment to reforms, the commitment to strengthening defence and security institutions, transparency, judiciary reforms", Stoltenberg said when asked what Macedonia's accession meant for Georgia.

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    Georgia has been striving to join NATO for years, with the alliance repeatedly reaffirming its support for Tbilisi's aspirations. Stoltenberg said in January that NATO and Georgia agreed to continue working together on its preparations for joining the bloc.

    Related:

    Macedonia Deal: ‘First Step Towards Reaching Broader Reconciliation’ – Prof
    Over 60% of Greeks Oppose Prespa Deal on Macedonia’s Name Change – Poll
    Greek Parliament Ratifies Macedonia Name Change Deal
    Some 60,000 Rally Against Macedonia Name Change Deal in Athens (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
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    NATO, Nikola Dimitrov, Jens Stoltenberg, Macedonia, Greece
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