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Merkel's Athens visit to focus on solidarity, Macedonia

AFP  |  Athens 

German headed to on Thursday to show post-solidarity with and lend diplomatic support on a name change for neighbouring

Merkel, who faced angry anti-protests during her last visit in 2014, was to hold talks with and address the still thorny issue of an impending name change for

The former constituent part of shares the name of a northern Greek province.

Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zaev have agreed in principle for to switch to "the Republic of North "

But lawmakers have still to vote through a move which entails four constitutional amendments and requires two thirds support in parliament.

The backs a switch which would open the door to membership in the bloc and also in NATO.

visited before last year's referendum on the change to show support.

Yet the issue remains divisive in where one party in Tsipras's coalition opposes it, threatening his parliamentary majority. The main conservative opposition is also against the name change and wants new elections which are officially not due before October.

was to address the subject in Friday talks with and then with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose party is an ally of her

Ahead of her visit, Merkel's said she and far-left Tsipras would discuss "European and international" issues with Pavlopoulos and business representatives.

Tensions were high between and during the eurozone sovereign debt crisis when Merkel's insisted on tough measures for in return for international bailouts.

But, "four months from European elections, Angela Merkel's visit will underline European solidarity with Greece, a success for Europe," Thanos Veremis, at the University of Athens, told AFP.

Greek daily quoted Merkel as saying Greece had its full support as she embarked on her visit saluting the "close ties" between the two EU states and NATO partners.

"I know that the past few years have been very difficult for many people in Greece. showed its solidarity through three rescue programmes and supported Greece in its course of reforms towards fiscal and economic stability," quoted the German as saying, hailing the "great progress" made since.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, January 10 2019. 20:45 IST