Greece's right-wing defense minister on Sunday announced his resignation ahead of a planned vote to end a decades-long name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Panos Kammenos, whose nationalist Independent Greeks party (ANEL) props up the government of leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said: "The Macedonia issue does not allow me not to sacrifice my post," after a meeting with Tsipras.
"I explained to him that for this national issue we cannot continue." Kammenos added that his party "is pulling out of the government."
In response to Kammenos' announcement, Tsipras said that he would request a vote of confidence in his government during the coming week. He thanked Kammenos for his government partnership and announced that that Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take on the role of defense minister.
Read more: Shape-shifting Macedonia
In a deal long opposed by Kammenos, the two countries agreed last year to rename FYROM as the Republic of Northern Macedonia. The controversial agreement would also allow Macedonia to join NATO and the European Union.
Macedonia's parliament ratified the deal by passing an amendment to the constitution on Friday, but Macedonia will start using it only after the parliament in Athens also approves the change in a vote expected later this month.
Kammenos has called the deal a national sell-out and had repeatedly threatened to leave if it came before the Greek parliament for ratification. He said any deal including "Macedonia" in the name of the Balkan state to Greece's north was unacceptable as the name was irrevocably tied to Greek civilization and culture.
Macedonia: What's in a name?
The naming row between the two countries began 27 years ago when FYROM declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but has roots going back to antiquity.
Athens has objected to its neighbor being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name, the seat of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom. Alexander the Great still represents a source of pride for many Greeks today, while his legacy has also been taken up as a central part of Macedonia's national identity.
Greece has long demanded Skopje change its country name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim to Greek sovereign territory.
kw/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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