The Latest: Rioters taunt Greek police at Macedonia protest
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on the place name dispute between Greece and Macedonia (all times local):
Greek riot police have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a group that tried to break a cordon outside parliament during an Athens protest of the government’s moves to normalize relations with neighboring Macedonia.
The police took action against the rioters suspected of representing the far-right, after officers were pelted with Molotov cocktails, rocks and flares. No injuries or arrests were reported.
As many as 2,500 people participated in Thursday night’s main protest, mostly peacefully, as Greek lawmakers debated a government agreement to withdraw objections to Macedonia’s NATO membership if the young country is renamed North Macedonia.
The deal is expected to be narrowly ratified in a vote set for Friday afternoon.
Earlier Thursday, police said 60 to 70 people were detained on suspicion of planning acts of violence.
The Greek parliament speaker’s office says a vote to ratify a deal with neighboring Macedonia to change that country’s name to normalize relations and allow it to join NATO has been pushed back to Friday.
The delay aims to accommodate the large number of lawmakers who want to speak during the debate.
The vote had been scheduled to take place late Thursday night, but the office said there would not have been enough time to allow everyone registered to speak to have a turn on the podium.
Under the agreement signed last year, Macedonia will change its name to North Macedonia and Greece will drop its objections to the country’s accession to NATO, ending a nearly three decade-long dispute. But the deal faces strong opposition in both countries.
About 1,500 police officers have taken up positions around Athens before demonstrations planned against Greece’s ratification of an agreement with Macedonia to normalize relations after decades of strain.
A four-day parliamentary debate was due to end late Thursday with a vote that would finalize plans by Greece’s neighbor to change its name to North Macedonia and further its bid to join NATO.
Protesters from the Greek Communist Party draped two giant banners opposing the deal over the walls of the ancient Acropolis early Thursday.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government needs support from up to six opposition lawmakers for the agreement to be ratified.
Opponents argue that the deal doesn’t end a potential territorial threat to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia. Mass demonstrations last Sunday were marred by extensive violence.