Greek Defence Minister Kammenos announces resignation ahead of Macedonia vote

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece’s Defence Minister, who is head of the main coalition partner of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, announced his resignation yesterday ahead of an upcoming Parliamentary vote to end a 27-year name dispute with Macedonia.

“The Macedonia issue does not allow me not to sacrifice my post,” Panos Kammenos said after a meeting with Tsipras.

“I thanked the Prime Minister for the cooperation and I explained to him that for this national issue we cannot continue,” he said, adding that his Independent Greeks party (ANEL) “is pulling out of the government”.

The nationalist ANEL supports the Tsipras administration with its seven lawmakers and has six ministers and junior ministers in the government.

Kammenos had threatened to pull out of the government when the name deal comes to a vote in Athens from the moment Tsipras signed the agreement with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in June. However, some of his ANEL party’s MPs remain ambivalent.

Macedonian lawmakers voted late last Friday to rename their country the Republic of North Macedonia but the agreement now needs backing from the Greek Parliament to come into effect. For the Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great’s ancient empire.

“Within ten days, in any case as soon as the Macedonia Parliamentary vote result is notified to us and if we see that everything is in order, we will vote to approve the Prespes Agreement,” Tsipras told Open TV earlier last week.

Greek Defence Minister and coalition partner Panos Kammenos leaves the Maximos Mansion after a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens yesterday. – AFP