Greek, FYROM officials inaugurate direct flight between Athens, Skopje

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Deputy Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Bujar Osmani waves as he gets on a plane to Skopje at Athens International Airport, Athens, Greece, on Nov. 1, 2018. Greek Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos and FYROM's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs Bujar Osmani inaugurated a new direct flight linking Athens and Skopje on Thursday. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

By Maria Spiliopoulou –

ATHENS, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) — Greek Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos and FYROM’s Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs Bujar Osmani inaugurated a new direct flight linking Athens and Skopje on Thursday.

FYROM, or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is the official name of Macedonia at the United Nations.

Katrougalos and Osmani discussed developments in the implementation of the deal reached this summer to resolve the Macedonia name dispute between the two countries.

The two capitals had a direct air link until 2007 when Skopje airport was named after ancient Greek king Alexander the Great.

Following the renaming of the airport this year and the achievement of the agreement which aims to put an end in a long standing row, the two neighboring countries decided the resumption of direct passenger flights between Athens and Skopje.

“We talked about the promotion and respect of the idea of the Prespes agreement as an agreement which not only resolves a longstanding issue between the two countries, but also stabilizes the wider Balkans region and ensures the European prospect of our neighboring countries,” Katrougalos said in a statement.

“My belief is that there will be an explosion of positive contexts of opportunities in cooperation between our two countries which will become the new strategic partners in the region,” Osmani said on his part.

After the meeting at the ministry, the Greek official accompanied Osmani to Athens international airport, where FYROM’s deputy PM departed on the first passenger flight to Skopje after 11 years.

“It is a moment which brings our two peoples closer. After the agreement which is mutually beneficial for the two countries and peoples, such moments will become more and more,” Katrougalos told Greek national broadcaster ERT at the Athens airport.

“This is a great day for the relations between our two countries. It is most symbolically telling how close we are after reaching this agreement,” Osmani said before boarding the aircraft.

Under the agreement signed this June at the Prespes lakes, the natural border between the two countries, FYROM will be renamed “Republic of North Macedonia”. Following the ratification process at Skopje the deal will be put to vote in coming months also at the Greek assembly.

Athens and Skopje were at odds over the use of the name Macedonia since Greece’s northern neighbor broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Athens was worried that the use of the same name of a Greek northern province by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.

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