Greek Defence Minister Resigns Ahead Of Macedonia Name Vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a confidence vote scheduled for Wednesday

Greece's hard-right Independent Greeks party quit the government today over a compromise name-change deal with Macedonia, leaving the prime minister facing a political crisis.

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.

"I explained to him that for this national issue we can not continue". A Greek government spokeswoman said the timeline for possible North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ratification will be clarified next week.

New Democracy on Sunday described the end of the Tsipras-Kammenos coalition as "a staged governmental divorce".

Tsipras briefly addressed the press just after noon Sunday, announcing he is invoking the established procedure for an immediate vote of confidence in his government in Greece's parliament in order to continue the government's term to the fall of 2019, and that he would be asking Greece's current Chief of Defence, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis to step in as Defence Minister.

In a deal long opposed by Kammenos, the two countries agreed past year to rename FYROM as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

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. Polls indicate it will probably fail to obtain the minimum three percent of the popular vote needed to meet the Greek parliamentary election threshold.

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Greece's objections forced the United Nations to refer to Macedonia as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name. It first expanded under King Perdiccas I, then widened to take in other areas.

As if it weren't complicated enough, there's another meaning of the word Macedonia. The name is thought to have ben popularized at the end of the 18th century, referring to either the ethnic diversity of Alexander's vast empire or the ethnic mix of Ottoman Macedonia.

Macedonia: What's in a name? It began almost three decades ago, with Macedonia's declaration of independence, but has roots dating back centuries.

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.

Greece has a province called Macedonia and long demanded Skopje change its country's name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim to Greek sovereign territory.

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