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Tsipras Backed Kammenos Over Kotzias in Bitter Battle

October 19, 2018

ATHENS – New details emerging from the sudden resignation of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA revealed he was offended by an attack from Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the coalition’s junior partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) – and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras backed Kammenos.

It was too much to take for Kotzias, who had engineered a deal the anti-nationalist SYRIZA made to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which Kammenos opposed, leading Tsipras to side with his defense minister, whose party’s votes he needs to keep a three-vote majority in Parliament.

Kammenos has threatened to pull his party from the government if the deal to rename FYROM as North Macedonia, keeping the name of an ancient Greek province and allowing its citizens to be called Macedonians and have a Macedonian language and identity, comes to a vote in the Greek Parliament, but also said he wouldn’t stand in the way of it, taking both sides simultaneously.

Tsipras said he would assume the duties of Foreign Minister as lawmakers in FYROM were debating whether to change their constitution to remove claims on Greek lands, a requirement before the Greek leader will lift a veto on Greece’s Balkan neighbor getting into NATO and opening European Union accession talks.

Sources told Kathimerini that Kotzias was disgruntled that Tsipras failed to support him against attacks from Kammenos, who reportedly accused Kotzias – whom he had earlier praised as the greatest Foreign Minister Greece ever had – of mismanaging secret foreign ministry funds and being a straw man for US billionaire financier George Soros.

Aides close to the foreign minister said he had been “deeply offended” by the allegations, the paper said. Ironically, Kammenos is being investigated by the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF after a Greek newspaper reported the minister had directed contracts from 1.6 billion euros ($1.84 billion) aimed at improving conditions in refugee centers to business friends.

In a tweet following his resignation, Kotzias said Tsipras and several ministers had “decided who to go with,” before paraphrasing Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos: “They did everything possible to bury me – But they forgot that I am a seed.”

Speaking to journalists outside Maximos Mansion, Tsipras FYROM to support the constitutional amendments, adding that Greece will not accept the Balkan country’s membership of any international organization under the name Republic of Macedonia, which FYROM uses in violation of a 1991 agreement with a New Democracy government.
That pact allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia to use the name Macedonia in what was supposed to be a temporary acronym before successive FYROM governments began claiming Greek lands.

Tsipras thanked Kotzias “for his precious contribution all these years in upgrading the country’s geopolitical role,” but said he “will not tolerate double talk and self-serving strategies,” apparently aimed at Kotzias, who has been one of his closest aides.

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