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North Macedonia takes its seat at the NATO table for the first time

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North Macedonia takes its seat at the NATO table for the first time
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It was a historic day for the Republic of North Macedonia on Wednesday, as the country took its place at the table of NATO allies for the first time.

The country's defence minister, Radmila Shekerinska, noted her excitement to be the first minister to represent North Macedonia at the NATO headquarters in Brussels for a two-day meeting of defence ministers.

"Today... we leave the isolation of the past behind us," she wrote on Twitter. "And we step into the future as part of the Alliance's family."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was quick to return the pleasantries.

"Glad to welcome defence minister Radmila Shekerinska to the Republic of North Macedonia's first NATO ministerial as an invitee," he wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of himself and Shekerinska.

"Thank you for your strong personal commitment to our Alliance."

While North Macedonia is not yet officially a NATO member — officials signed an accession agreement last week in order to pave the way towards membership — it is still permitted to sit at the NATO table as a guest.

READ MORE: The Republic of North Macedonia inches closer to joining NATO, but how does a country get invited?

Official name change

It has been a big week for the Balkan country.

Just last Wednesday, NATO members signed the accession protocol alongside North Macedonia to launch its path to membership.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and North Macedonian President Zoran Zaev presented the hoisting of the NATO flag together with the country's national flag outside a government building in the capital, Skopje.

"We can all be proud that we are living the new era, an era of building a democratic society of equal citizens who aspire to conquer European values," he wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

Tuesday was also the day the country officially changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, marking the end of a long-running feud with Greece.

Greece found the use of the country's former name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, controversial due to it being a similar name for a region in Greece's north.

READ MORE: Greece and FYR Macedonia name dispute: the controversial feud explained

But following a 28-year dispute, Greece's parliament finally came to an agreement in January on a name change for FYR Macedonia, to the Republic of North Macedonia.

The government webpage, seen here, reflects that change.

In his marking of the historic day, North Macedonia's foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, took the time to reflect on what the changes meant for the country's future diplomatic relationships, particularly with neighbouring Greece.

"May today be the beginning of a long friendship between Greece and North Macedonia," he wrote on Twitter.

"We can’t change our past, but we can and we will shape our future of friendship, partnership and cooperation."