Greek Defense Minister and coalition partner Panos Kammenos exits the Maximos Mansion following a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, Greece, January 13, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s right-wing defense minister resigned on Sunday in protest at a deal ending a long running dispute with Macedonia over its name, clouding the future of the coalition government months before national elections.
Panos Kammenos, whose Independent Greeks party props up the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has long opposed the accord with neighboring Macedonia signed by their governments last year.
“The Macedonia name issue… doesn’t allow me not to sacrifice the minister’s chair,” Kammenos said after meeting Tsipras on Sunday morning. He said he would also pull six other ministers from his party out of the government.
The impact of the resignation on the governing coalition was not immediately clear. Parliamentary elections are due in Greece by October. Tsipras’s coalition has 153 seats in the 300-strong parliament, 145 of them from his leftist Syriza party.
Kammenos, who forged a coalition pact with Tsipras in 2015, has never hid his hostility to the deal with Skopje, which renames the tiny Balkan country Republic of North Macedonia. Greece has a province called Macedonia and long demanded Skopje change its country name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim to Greek sovereign territory.
Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Heinrich