Greek foreign minister resigns, prime minister takes over

Greek FM Nikos Kotzias

Greek FM Nikos Kotzias

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent a strong message overseas and within the government coalition in Athens on Wednesday of his "decisiveness to succeed" in pulling the country out of the debt crisis and implementing the agreement to settle the name dispute with Macedonia, or formally FYROM.

The Greek foreign minister on Wednesday resigned after a disagreement over the Macedonia name change deal, the prime ministry said.

Greece's FM resigned Wednesday following a disagreement with the Defense Minister Panos Kammenos over the handling of a deal for Greece to drop its objections to FYROM joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation if the country's name is changed.

Greece has long argued that use of the term Macedonia by its northern neighbor harbored territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name.

Tsipras said that the move aims to prevent giving different messages about the name deal.

Kammenos, who heads the governing coalition's junior party, opposes the agreement reached in June and has threatened to leave the coalition if the debate comes to parliament for ratification.

During Tuesday's fractious cabinet meeting, Tsipras asked his ministers to put their difference aside and back him if the opposition calls a no-confidence vote.

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Tzanakopoulos said Tuesday's cabinet meeting involved "an open political discussion" on Kammenos' disagreement with the name deal.

But Tsipras is also trying to hold his coalition government together ahead of elections scheduled in a year's time.

The irony of his departing to keep Kammenos and his party in the government was not lost on the centre-right opposition party New Democracy, which is leading in the polls. "And the quicker this farce ends, the better", New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

"I think it's now abundantly clear Mr Tsipras is not just a weak prime minister, but a prime minister being blackmailed. He is a prime minister under blackmail", Mitsotakis said.

A 67-year-old career diplomat and university professor, Kotzias had held the foreign ministry post since Tsipras' leftist government came to power in 2015 and was one of his most experienced and valued ministers.

The agreement is yet to be implemented by the Macedonian parliament.

The deal is in limbo after the referendum at the end of September (30 Sept) in FYROM when less than the minimum required turned out to make it valid.

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