UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated the Greek Parliament over its ratification of an agreement Friday to end a nearly three decade-long dispute over neighbouring Macedonia’s name in a landmark vote that will see the small country renamed North Macedonia, saying the move would strengthen peace in the region.

Matthew Nimetz, the UN chief’s Personal Envoy who has been engaged with the process for nearly two-decades, also welcomed the ratification of the name-change, commending “this visionary step” both sides had now taken.

The UN chief said in a statement from his Spokesperson, that “the implementation of the Agreement will strengthen peace and security in the region and provide a fresh impetus to reconciliation efforts in Europe and beyond.

The Secretary-General looks forward to the completion of the process as outlined in the Prespa

Agreement.”

Nimetz, the UN envoy, said the historic Prespa Agreement between two neighbours “opens the door to a new relationship between them and ushers in a new era for the consolidation of peace and security in the Balkans.” The dispute stretches back to 1991, when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia and announced its intention to be named “Macedonia.”

Neighbouring Greece refused to recognize the name, insisting that only the northern Greek region of the same name should be called Macedonia, and arguing that the former Yugoslav Republic’s use of the name was a challenge to Greek sovereignty.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Parliament and the country’s citizens approved the change – renaming the country the Republic of North Macedonia ­ in a referendum held in September 2018, shortly after the leaders of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece signed a deal on the issue in a ceremony at Lake Prespa, where the borders of the two countries (and Albania) meet.

In Friday’s statement, Nimitz looked forward look forward to completion of the process as outlined in the Agreement and reiterated the “continued commitment of the United Nations to working with the two Parties.”