100000 rally in Greece's Thessaloniki urging Macedonia to change name

People holding flags of Greece take part in a demonstration to protest against the use of the name Macedonia. AFP  SAKIS MITROLIDIS

People holding flags of Greece take part in a demonstration to protest against the use of the name Macedonia. AFP SAKIS MITROLIDIS

Greece says the title "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim over its own northern region of the same name. A compound name in which the term "Macedonia" is included without any designation that excludes ownership of the geographic position and history.

Thousands of Greeks flooded into the city of Thessaloniki today to protest against a United Nations plan that could finally put an end one of the world's most freakish but emotive disputes: what to call Macedonia.

This month Athens and Skopje agreed to renew efforts to settle the 25-year old row, which has blocked the ex-Yugloslav republic's attempts to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union. "This is not negotiable", said Leonardou, a 59-year-old writer from Thessaloniki, warning that if the Greek government does otherwise "there will be an answer from the Greek people".

The U.N. negotiator Matthew Nimetz - a 24-year veteran on the issue - said last week that he was "very hopeful" that a solution was within reach.

They waved Greek flags, held banners reading "There is only one Macedonia and it is Greek!" and chanted the national anthem as they rallied around the statue of Alexander the Great in the centre of the city and along its seaside promenade and port.

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Winnipeg march organizer Basia Sokal highlighted unequal access to child care and health care in Manitoba as examples. Thousands of people gathered outside Baltimore City Hall, joined by Mayor Catherine Pugh, members of the City Council.

Despite the nationalist fervour that is also being fed by members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, Greeks appear to be less militant on the issue than in the past.

As Greece and FYROM struggle with domestic divisions, with their local populations protesting the latest UN-backed initiative, Russia, the United States, the European Union and Turkey are each trying to wield their influence on the outcome.

"We are all here to cry out loud that Macedonia is one and it is Greek".

And the Greek Orthodox Church, which is traditionally opposed to the use of the term Macedonia by Skopje and led the 1992 rally, appears to have distanced itself from Sunday's events. NATO's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, told officials last week in Skopje, the Republic of Macedonia's capital, that the name dispute with Greece must be resolved before the Balkan country can join the alliance.

"It's totally groundless historically and absurd to seek the exclusivity of Macedonia", Tsipras told Sunday's Ethnos newspaper. Download The for your device.

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