Greek defenсe minister resigns, PM Tsipras calls vote of confidence in govt

Greek defence minister

Panos Kammenos announced his resignation and said his right-wing Independent Greeks party is quitting the government after meeting with Tsipras on Sunday morning. Polls suggest opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis's New Democracy would win the most votes if Greece held an election now. Tsipras's coalition has 153 seats in the 300-strong parliament, 145 of them from his leftist Syriza party.

Mr Kammenos said that he would vote against the government as supporting it would imply backing for the name deal with Macedonia.

The newspaper, however, noted that there are now difficulties in the Greek parliament, which also needs to ratify the Prespa agreement.

Macedonia was founded in 1991 and recognized by the United Nations in 1993, but was accepted to the United Nations membership with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek objection to the name Macedonia. However, the Greek Parliament still needs to vote - and this will likely prove no easy task given how deeply divisive the issue remains there, a report in The New York Times observed. However some of his ANEL party's MPs remain ambivalent.

After a confused post-holiday week marked by conflicting statements and signals from key Greek leaders in the ruling coalition government, political developments in Athens switched back into high gear immediately after the Macedonia/FYROM parliament approved constitutional amendments required by the Prespes Agreement late on January 11, which change the country's name for all purposes to "North Macedonia".

The deal struck by Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev came after a change of the Government in Macedonia in 2017, which led to a more distended relationship.

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Kammenos had said on Sunday that he would dismiss ANEL ministers who insisted on keeping their ministerial seats ahead of a vote of confidence in the government this week. He said any deal including "Macedonia" in the name of the Balkan state to Greece's north was unacceptable as the name was irrevocably tied to Greek civilization and culture.

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.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the parliament's decision, praising the Macedonian leader's "vision, courage and persistence" in seeking a resolution to the dispute with Greece that would allow it to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Athens claimed that the name made it sound like Macedonia the country has its eyes set on annexing Macedonia the province - or at the least was appropriating Greece's historical heritage.

For the Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great's ancient empire.

The main conservative opposition party, New Democracy, also opposes the new name. A longstanding dispute between the two countries led to the move, because a region of Greece bordering the Macedonian republic is also called Macedonia.

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