Following the resignation of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has decided to assume the Foreign Ministry himself announcing his “determination to do whatever possible to guarantee the successful completion of the historic Prespes Agreement.”
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 NATO if the country’s name is changed.
Kotzias had led negotiations on the Greek side for the agreement with FYROM on the name issue which was signed earlier this year and quit his role as FM a day after a Cabinet meeting during which he reportedly had a heated argument with Kammenos over the Prespes deal and felt he didn’t receive sufficient support from colleagues or the Prime Minister.
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.
Kotzias was angered by statements Kammenos made during a recent trip to the United States that raised the possibility of an alternative to the name deal, countering current Greek government and U.S. policies.
“The PM and a series of Ministers made their choices in yesterday’s (cabinet) meeting, and then I made mine,” Kotzias wrote on his Twitter page.
Tsipras later warned he would not tolerate disagreements within his government on the deal with FYROM.
“I will not accept any double messages from now on from anyone, no personal opinion relating to the country’s national policy, expressed consciously or not, that disrupts the country’s smooth path,” Tsipras told reporters.
Tsipras also sought to reassure FYROM, which is in the process of debating the agreement in its Parliament, that he fully supports the agreement that will upgrade Greece’s international standing, as he said.
In his statements outside the Maximos Mansion, where a cabinet meeting was held on Tuesday, Tsipras said he accepted Kotzias’ resignation “with a heavy heart”. He thanked Kotzias for his contribution these past 3.5 years in raising Greece’s profile in the region.
Addressing himself to FYROM, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, “I encourage them to proceed with determination and courage,” warning that “there will be no other opportunity” to change the country’s name as a prerequisite to joining the EU and NATO.