UN chief urges Macedonia to implement name change

1 min

United Nations (United States) (AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged Macedonia to move forward with a name change after more than 90 percent of voters backed renaming the Balkan country North Macedonia.

The United Nations has worked for years to help broker a deal to end the name dispute with Greece that has prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO.

"The fact that an overwhelming majority of those voting supported the Prespa agreement is important," Guterres said in a statement, referring to the deal signed in June near the shores of Lake Prespa in Greece.

Greece has its own northern province named Macedonia and has accused its northern neighbour of territorial ambitions.

The UN chief "urges all political forces in the country to proceed with implementation through the country's institutions," said the statement.

More than 90 percent of those who voted supported the name change in a referendum on Sunday, but only a third of the electorate turned out.

Some opponents of the change pointed to the low turnout to argue that the result was not valid.

The EU and NATO have welcomed the outcome of the referendum that could speed up plans for Macedonia to join the two organisations.