NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is expected on Thursday to invite the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Zoran Zaev, to start accession talks.
Greece and FYROM agreed in June to end a 27-year dispute by renaming the latter North Macedonia, in a deal that will take months to finalize. The deal opened the way for the Balkan nation’s induction to NATO.
“Once all national procedures have been completed to finalize the name agreement, the country will join NATO as our 30th member,” Stoltenberg said at a summit in Brussels.
He said it is in the hands of the people of FYROM to decide whether to support the name deal with Greece, which he described as the chance of a lifetime.
However, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is also the leader of junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL), insisted at the summit that the name deal between Athens and Skopje “will never be passed by the current Parliament [of Greece].”
He added, moreover, that no matter how many photos FYROM officials take at the summit or invites they receive, Skopje will never join NATO as long as “Macedonia” is included in its name.
Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday on the summit sidelines and is expected to raise the issue of the two Greek soldiers that have been held in Turkey without charge since March.
“The unprecedented fact that two NATO soldiers have been detained by another NATO country for more than four months because they accidentally crossed into its territory, without even being charged, is an open wound for NATO,” he told NATO leaders, and called on Turkey to “heal the wound with the immediate return of the two soldiers.”