By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — NATO has formally invited Macedonia to begin membership talks on joining the North Atlantic alliance.
The invitation, which was widely expected, was issued on July 11 after a summit meeting in Brussels of heads of states from the 29 members.
The invitation was made to the former Yugoslav republic after it resolved a multidecade dispute with NATO and EU member Greece over the country’s official name.
Greece has long objected to Macedonia’s formal designation, since one region in Greece shares the same name.
But earlier this year, the two countries settled their dispute, opening the door for NATO to extend a membership invitation.
Macedonia would become NATO’s 30th member if the talks are successful.
The prospect of Macedonia joining NATO has already angered Russia, which has long opposed the eastward expansion of the alliance, fearing a military threat.
News reports on July 11 said Greece was preparing to expel two Russian diplomats suspected of meddling in the issue of Macedonia’s name. Russia said it would respond in kind.