Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet on Saturday with the leaders of the main opposition parties to inform them about the discussions with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the name issue, although there is growing tension within his own coalition about the matter.
Tsipras is due to receive New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis at 10.30 a.m., followed by PASOK’s Fofi Gennimata two hours later, Communist Party chief Dimitris Koutsoubas at 1.30 p.m., Stavros Theodorakis of To Potami at 3 p.m. and Union of Centrists head Vassilis Leventis at 5.30 p.m.
Although Mitsotakis indicated earlier this week that New Democracy believes the government’s handling of the issue does not leave any further room for discussion at a domestic level, he has decided to accept the premier’s invitation, feeling that it is the right thing to do in terms of his institutional role.
Mitsotakis has accused Tsipras of negotiating secretly and ND sources suggested on Friday that the invitation to the opposition leader had come too late.
“There is no room for consensus,” party sources said, citing the speech that Mitsotakis made to New Democracy’s political committee on Wednesday, when he said that the longstanding dispute with Greece’s neighbor would have to be solved at a different juncture.
Panos Kammenos, who leads SYRIZA’s coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), has also expressed reservations about the negotiations with Skopje, suggesting he will not support any deal that includes the name “Macedonia.”
Tsipras met Kammenos, who is also the defense minister, on Friday. The talks took place at the prime minister’s office but the meeting had not been announced to the media, allowing the ANEL chief to leave without having to answer journalists’ questions.
Kammenos’s refusal to publicly back the government’s negotiations with Skopje led to SYRIZA MP Sakis Papadopoulos arguing that if there is an agreement and it is brought to Parliament, it is inconceivable for the defense minister not to support it.
Tsipras also met on Friday with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to inform him about the discussions with FYROM.
Pavlopoulos stressed the importance for Skopje to give up any irredentist ideas regarding Greece. “Our neighbors have to understand that on their path toward Europe they will have to discard irredentist views,” he said.
United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz is due to visit Athens on Tuesday and Skopje the following day and will hold discussions with both countries’ foreign ministers, Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov.
Kotzias and Dimitrov are due to hold a bilateral meeting early in February.