Greece's Aegean Airlines will operate flights between Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia twice-weekly with the first flight between the countries taking off Thursday after a 12 -year blockade. Photo courtesy of Aegean
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Flights between Greece and Macedonia resumed Thursday after 12 years as their relations improve over efforts in the latter country to rename itself North Macedonia.
The first direct flight took off to Skopje, North Macedonia at 6:40 p.m. local time Thursday, from Athens, Greece.
Greece's Aegean Airlines, the country's largest air carrier, will operate flights between the countries twice weekly.
"This is indicative of the big improvement in our relations," Macedonia's ambassador to Athens, Darko Angelov, told the Guardian. "As neighboring countries it was long needed and will be greatly welcomed by the business community."
The rift between the countries has begun to ease after they recently settled a decades-long dispute over over Macedonia's name.
The former Yugoslav Republic has been Macedonia since 1991, but Greece had disputed the name since it has a region with the same name that has an ancient culture it claims.
Earlier this month, Macedonia lawmakers voted 90-39 to change the country's name to Republic of North Macedonia, distinguishing it from Greece's province.
Direct air flights were halted under the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's conservative government in 2006, because it named Skopje's airport after Alexander the Great.
"After more than 10 years, we are witnessing the re-establishment of the air corridor between Skopje & Athens," Macedonian deputy prime minister for European affairs Bujar Osmani said on Twitter, calling it "a symbol to the genuine relations that we are building."