Greek, Italian presidents attend WW II commemoration parade

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THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) - Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Sunday attended Greece's annual military parade commemorating Greece's entry into World War II - against Italy.

Mattarella appeared at the parade in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, at the invitation of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who later hailed his counterpart's presence.

"We are leaving behind what divided us. We are determined to defend Europe from ... the forces of populism and racism, bordering on Nazism, that want to destroy Europe," Pavlopoulos said. "(We are) determined never to let the revival of the nightmares that led to World War II happen again."

Italy invaded Greece on Oct. 28, 1940, from neighboring Albania, which it had occupied the previous year. The Italians expected a swift advance but were soon beaten back deep into Albania by the Greeks. The front stabilized by December and a major Italian spring offensive failed, prompting Germany to invade and occupy Greece, and Yugoslavia, in April 1941.

The two presidents will travel later Sunday to the island of Kefalonia, in western Greece, the site of a massacre of an Italian division by the Germans in September 1943, after Italy surrendered to the Allies.

Greek police on Sunday kept at bay a small crowd of protesters who wanted to march and protest the name change deal signed by Greece and Macedonia in July resolving a long-standing dispute over Macedonia's name.

Some reservist units taking part in the parade shouted "Macedonia is Greek!" while marching past the VIP stand.

Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, is the capital of the Greek province of Macedonia. Greece had long objected to its neighbor to the north naming itself Macedonia on the grounds that the name implied territorial claims on the Greek province, as well as being an appropriation of Greek history and symbols.

Macedonia plans to change its name to North Macedonia so it can finally move past Greek objections and join NATO.

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Evzones of Greek presidential guard parade through the streets of the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece during a military parade, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


People holding Greek flags watch a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, center, watch as people dressed in traditional costumes take part in a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Greek special forces officers gather before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


A group of people wearing traditional costumes gather before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Greek special forces officers stand to attention before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


A man selling Greek flags walks past a Hellenic army tank before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece , Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Greek police officers stand guard as a group of protesters against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia watches the military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


A man kisses his son as they walk past a Greek army tank before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Hellenic Air Force F-16 takes part at the annual military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece during a military parade, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Italian President Sergio Mattarella, center left, and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos, center, applaud as Greek students march during a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Italian President Sergio Mattarella, center, attends a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Greek protesters watch a military parade as others hold a banner against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


An elderly man wearing a traditional costume holds a placard reading "Greeks save Macedonia" before a military parade at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press


Greek protesters hold a banner against Greece's name deal with neighboring Macedonia as they march after a military parade, in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The parade is held to celebrate Greece's refusal to align itself with a belligerent fascist Italy in 1940 and instead fight a much stronger opponent, a decision which dragged it into World War II and eventually led to a brutal occupation by Nazi Germany. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) - The Associated Press