(dpa) - Macedonia's delegation walked out of a NATO summit in Bucharest on Thursday after Greece refused to let it join the alliance.
"The Macedonian delegation will leave because we feel the need to be with our people ... Greece's irrelevant argument of ancient times won over the serious needs of the (Western Balkan) region," Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said.
Greece and Macedonia have been in dispute over the latter's name since 1991, when Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Greece says that the name implies a territorial claim on its own northern province, also called Macedonia.
At the NATO summit, Greece refused to approve the offer of a membership invitation to Macedonia, saying that the government in Skopje had failed to act in a good-neighbourly way by refusing to change its name.
The UN has been leading talks on the thorny issue for over a decade, suggesting a compromise name to both parties as recently as March 26. Athens rejected that proposal, saying that it was "far from the goals sought by Greece."
The NATO debacle now threatens to derail the negotiating process, with Milososki saying that the Greek veto is a "direct breach" of an interim accord signed between the sides in September 1995, and the Macedonian government "will have to reconsider" its entire approach to the name negotiations.
"Our country is the Republic of Macedonia, and it will remain so for ever," he said.
That appears to leave little room for compromise, or for a rapid NATO accession for Macedonia, since Greece is already a member of the body and therefore has veto rights over its future membership.
"All NATO countries except Greece are favourable and supportive" of Macedonia's accession, but the question of how the alliance should act now "is a matter for NATO," Milososki said.