Greek defence minister quits over Macedonia name deal

Greek defence minister quits over Macedonia name deal

Greece's conservative defence minister, who leads the junior partner in the country's coalition government, has resigned over the Macedonia name deal, which he opposes.

At this point, unless early elections are called, New Democracy's only option has been to request a no-confidence vote in parliament, something that was tried and failed a year ago.

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

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati tweeted after the vote, saying "the contribution of Albanian political parties once again proved to be a decisive factor".

Tsipras and Kammenos met for almost an hour before the prime minister said he had accepted Kammenos' resignation, but added that he would call for a confidence vote in parliament to keep his government alive.

As promised, the country's main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, boycotted the vote, although a number of its now expelled members broke ranks to support the plans of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev's government to take the country into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, assuming Greek objections are ultimately lifted and Athens ratifies the deal.

Talking to reporters after their meeting, Tsipras thanked Kammenos for his "irreplacable and significant" contribution to the coalition government, and said that their partnership was frank and fruitful.

Kammenos has called the deal a national sell-out and had repeatedly threatened to leave if it came before the Greek parliament for ratification.

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If Kammenos refuses to back down, Tsipras hopes to rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami party to get the agreement approved.

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

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. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

But a change of government in Macedonia in 2017 finally led to the deal reached past year.

"Within 10 days... if we see everything is in order, we will vote", Tsipras said on Friday evening.

Greek nationalists argue that the name "Macedonia" can only refer to the Greek province of the same name.

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. It began almost three decades ago, with Macedonia's declaration of independence, but has roots dating back centuries. In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks. Their efforts brought the pair a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

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