Kammenos leaves ruling coalition in Greece ahead of Macedonia name vote

Greek defence minister

Earlier, Greece's right-wing defence minister resigned in protest at a deal ending a long running dispute with Macedonia over its name, saying he was taking his other six ministers in cabinet with him.

Parliamentary elections are due in Greece by October. Kammenos added that his party "is pulling out of the government".

Greek polls suggest opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis's New Democracy party would win the most votes if elections were held now, though it's unclear whether he'd be able to form a government without needing allies in parliament.

Macedonia was founded in 1991 and recognized by the United Nations in 1993, but was accepted to the United Nations membership with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek objection to the name Macedonia. As a result the Greek government - a sketchy coalition at best - has gone into a tailspin.

ANEL leader Kammenos has long promised to reject the Prespes Agreement but several of his MPs have said publicly they will support it, generating new internal break-up scenarios each day.

Kammenos said that 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. Now, "we will immediately proceed with the process to renew the parliamentary support" for the government, the prime minister said.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will call a confidence vote after his governing coalition split over the Macedonia name change.

The first casualty in Athens is Kammenos, who, after meeting with Tsipras January 13, said "The Macedonia name issue... doesn't allow me not to sacrifice the minister's chair". Neither one has stated their position on the confidence motion but Kokkalis has said he will vote against the Macedonian name change. "Last year, the alliance invited Macedonia into its ranks, the European Union is ready to start accession negotiations in mid 2019 - in both cases, under the condition that the agreement with Greece is implemented", the daily writes.

"If anything, the exit of Kammenos helps clear some of the uncertainty of the last few days which were marred by his backpedaling", said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director at Eurasia Group in London.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy". Many countries, including Turkey, recognize Macedonia with its present name. For years, Athens has blocked Macedonia's entry to the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, citing the name dispute. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", Zaev told a press conference in Skopje.

The main conservative opposition party, New Democracy, also opposes the new name. For the Greeks, Macedonia is significant as the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire.

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