Turkey will welcome Macedonia to NATO - Turkish foreign minister

Turkey looks forward to welcoming Macedonia into NATO following the ratification of the name deal with Greece, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday, according to Greek news outlet Kathimerini.

“We have strong ties with Macedonia that go back many centuries, ties that are strong regardless of political relations. I would like to stress that our political relations are excellent these days,” Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference in Ankara following a meeting with his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Dimitrov.

“Turkey recognises Macedonia by its constitutional name,” he added, suggesting Turkish officials might continue to use the country’s current name.

Greece and Macedonia have been at odds over the latter’s name since it declared independence in 1991. In October, Macedonia’s parliament voted to change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia, enabling the former Yugoslav republic to join NATO.

Greece had blocked Macedonia’s membership, arguing that the name Macedonia implied territorial claims to a Greek province of the same name. The deal is likely to stabilise the Balkans, yet undermine Turkey's influence in the region, a Greek former foreign minister said in October.

Skopje ratified the agreement last week and has informed Athens that it has completed the conditions of the deal. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras won a confidence vote in parliament this week, clearing a major hurdle for Athens to approve the deal in the coming days and end the dispute.

Çavuşoğlu said that stability in Macedonia is crucial to stability in the Balkans, where Turkey enjoys good relations with several countries. “Turkey attaches a lot of importance to stability in the region and provides support for its economic growth,” he said.