Russia’s attempt to prevent the newly-named North Macedonia to get into NATO and opening European Union talks having failed, the Kremlin has decided to recognize Greece’s Balkan neighbor, just as a battle between two former ministers over the name deal got hot.
Greece last year expelled two Russian diplomats accused of trying to undermine the agreement the anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras made to change the name of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
That gave away the name of an ancient Greek province as well as recognizing a Macedonian language, culture and identity, which led former defense minister Panos Kammenos to pull his tiny Independent Greeks (ANEL) from the government.
That has left Tsipras with a minority government depending on the votes of a handful of former rivals and alleged Independents who swore allegiance to him, although the deal also cost him his former Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, who quit when the Premier backed Kammenos during a Cabinet meeting.
Kammenos had once called Kotzias the “greatest Foreign Minister Greece ever had,” but the two have been bickering furiously since with both of them sidelined and continuing to snipe and swipe at each other.
Speaking on Real FM Monday, Kotzias said Kammenos’ public opposition to the accord was a political sham because the ANEL leader knew when he agreed to join a coalition in January, 2015 that was a key part of SYRIZA’s platform.
“He knew all about it,” Kotzias said. “From the very beginning he had given his consent to the start of negotiations to bring the issue to a close.”
Shortly thereafter, Kammenos, who was said to be recovering from surgery, called Kotzias “the traitor of Macedonia,” and said he would try to have his former coalition colleague jailed on charges that weren’t explained, continuing a pattern of idle threats.
“After I recover with the help of God, I will expose his grave crimes to the Greek people and have him end up in shackles,” he said in a message on Twitter.
The Russian Embassy in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje received a note from the Russian Foreign Ministry confirming its recognition of the name.
Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said the deal’s technical issues were still being worked out and both countries were cooperating. “It is positive that every time we note this to other side the problem is immediately rectified,” he said.