Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Macedonia officially signed on Wednesday to become an official member of NATO, after resistance from Greece was settled last month.
Greece had long objected to membership over a dispute with the Macedonia name, which Athens uses for a Greek region in the north. Last month, the two countries settled the dispute when the country agreed to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. In exchange for the name change, Greece agreed to drop its veto toward Macedonia's NATO admittance.
The signing allows the Balkan nation to take part in NATO activities as an invitee while the 29 member nations ratify the agreement in their own countries. Macedonia will formally change its name after Greece's ratification.
"NATO keeps almost one billion citizens across Europe and North America secure and with you joining NATO there will be thirty countries committed to protect each other," NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
"Your accession will bring more stability to the Western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security."
Macedonia already contributes to NATO's training mission in Afghanistan and the alliance's peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
"This wasn't inevitable -- this wasn't even very likely to happen," Macedonia Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said. "The impossible is actually doable. This is a family that strives to make our world more peaceful and a better place.
"This is a journey that has made us more mature... we have proven that we can assume our responsibility, face a problem, and resolve those problems."
Macedonia and Greece have squabbled over the name -- which has been around since Alexander The Great's reign in the region during late B.C. -- since 1991 when the country broke away from the former Yugoslavia.