Greek defence minister resigns over Macedonia name change

Greek defence minister

Earlier, Greece's right-wing defence minister resigned in protest at a deal ending a long running dispute with Macedonia over its name, saying he was taking his other six ministers in cabinet with him. Polls suggest opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis's New Democracy would win the most votes if Greece held an election now.

The survival of Tsipras, who led Greece through high-drama bailout standoffs and forged an unlikely bond with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hinges on his Independent Greeks coalition ally, whose seven seats in the 300-member parliament give it the balance of power.

Tsipras has already said he wants the Macedonia name change vote to take place soon.

"The Macedonia issue does not allow me not to sacrifice my post", Kammenos said on January 13 following talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Tsipras hopes to rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami (The River) party to get the agreement approved, while some of ANEL's lawmakers also remain ambivalent to the deal. "Last year, the alliance invited Macedonia into its ranks, the European Union is ready to start accession negotiations in mid 2019 - in both cases, under the condition that the agreement with Greece is implemented", the daily writes.

The resignation of Panos Kammenos clouded the future of the coalition government months before national elections.

Greece has long demanded Skopje change its country name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim to Greek sovereign territory.

It came after three days of negotiations between Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and lawmakers that opposed the changes.


But Mr Kammenos and other nationalist forces including the main Greek conservative opposition party, New Democracy, said they can't sanction this name as they identify with north Macedonia a northern region of Greece.

A Greek prosecutor had on Saturday ordered an investigation into allegations of threats against lawmakers over an upcoming parliamentary vote to end a 27-year dispute with Macedonia, a judicial source said.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy".

Zaev said on January 12 that the lawmakers had "made history", adding: "I know how hard that was".

The dispute, which has raged since it voted for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, is blocking Macedonia's hopes of joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union. The country exited a bailout programme in mid-2018.

A spokesperson for the governing Social Democrats said the ethnic Albanian legislators also agreed to back the deal.

After the fall of the Greek Empire, the Romans - who admired Alexander - used the old name Macedonia for the province encompassing much of northern Greece and the area north of it - including much of the modern-day Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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