Macedonia Formally Invited to Join NATO

Moscow Will Expel Two Greek Diplomats in Response to Athens

"They can not get both", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after the decision.

The leaders of the alliance invited Macedonia on Wednesday to start accession talks, with the success ultimately hinging on a referendum backing the new name, which is "Republic of North Macedonia", Reuters writes.

The member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) chose to invite Macedonia to start accession talks, the secretary general of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said. The Balkan country became NATO's 29th member a year ago. Greece had been a member since 1952.

Macedonian voters and the Greek parliament still must sign off on the deal, which also could dissipate any Greek objections to the Macedonian government's ambition to join the European Union.

"But it can't become a member of the Alliance, unless there is a change in the name of the country".

"Detailed accession talks will now begin to help your country make its final preparation for its full membership", Stoltenberg told Zaev on the sidelines of the Western alliance's summit in Brussels on July 12.

"Because this is an opportunity that is given once in a lifetime". To underscore the point, he said, "they can not get both". It has no combat warplanes.

"We have chose to invite the government in Skopje to begin accession talks to join our alliance", the leaders said in their summit communiqué.

"Russia is a friendly country with whom we have very good historical relations, but Greece considers global law as the foundation of all bilateral and multilateral relations, so in defending our sovereignty", George Katrougalos, the deputy to Greece's foreign minister, told Reuters.

The pledges came as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been keen to play a major role in the fight against terrorism and demonstrate its resilience against an aggressive Russian Federation that has annexed Crimea and sown instability in Ukraine.

Greece has reportedly expelled two Russian diplomats over allegations that Moscow has interfered in its negotiations with neighboring Macedonia.

Andrei Klimov, a member of the Russian upper house, said that Moscow would expel two Greek envoys in response.

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