Greek foreign minister confident on name deal with Macedonia

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, left, and his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias, leave a news conference in Athens, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s foreign minister says he’s confident a preliminary deal to rename neighboring Macedonia will be fully ratified despite opposition in both countries.

Nikos Kotzias says he hopes and believes Macedonians will back the name change to “North Macedonia” in a Sept. 30 referendum.

If implemented, the agreement will end a decades-old bilateral dispute and ease Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the European Union.

Kotzias also said Thursday that once Macedonia’s parliament amends the country’s constitution to accommodate the change, Greek lawmakers will also ratify the deal — even though most opposition parties reject it.

Kotzias said the timetable for finalizing the process will probably be delayed by about a month, to late January. He spoke after talks in Athens with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

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