SKOPJE, Macedonia — Macedonian and United States troops have started two weeks of joint military manoeuvers in central Macedonia as part of the Balkan country’s drive to join NATO.

About 300 U.S. soldiers with 120 military vehicles and tanks arrived on Friday from neighboring Bulgaria to participate in the “Dragoon Guardian 17” exercise that will run until Aug. 10.

They will be joined by some 100 Macedonian soldiers.

Macedonia’s defense ministry says the main goal of the exercise is to strengthen military cooperation with the U.S. and to show that the Macedonian army is compatible with NATO standards.

Macedonia wants to join NATO but was blocked in 2008 by neighboring Greece, a member of the alliance, due to a long-running dispute over Macedonia’s official name.

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