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Voice of America, 01-07-26

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>

SLUG: 2-278692 Macedonia-Solana (L-only) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:


  • [01] Macedonia-Solana (L-only) BY Jeff Bieley (Skopje)

  • [01] Macedonia-Solana (L-only) BY Jeff Bieley (Skopje)


    INTRO: NATO and European Union top officials say Macedonia has successfully moved away from war Thursday. Jeff Bieley reports from Skopje, an urgently negotiated withdrawal of ethnic Albanian rebel forces has calmed tensions and allowed some refugees to return to their homes.

    TEXT: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana gave an upbeat assessment on the situation in Macedonia, after a day of discussions with political leaders here. He said, "The political process is back on track and the ceasefire is back on track." Mr. Solana's assessment was backed by NATO Secretary General George Robertson, who joined the peace talks with Mr. Solana. Mr. Robertson said a peace agreement could be quickly reached in talks expected to resume Friday. He said of all the issues between ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political leaders, "95 percent" had already been settled. "The remaining 5 percent," he said, "should be resolved during further meetings in Tetovo." Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said the city of Tetovo, 35 kilometers west of the capital, was chosen as the site of the talks because,in his words, "We want to express our support for peace there." He said the town, which has an 80 percent ethnic Albanian majority "was and will remain the symbol of coexistence between Macedonians and Albanians." A NATO-brokered deal Wednesday was focused on removing the rebels from Tetovo and nearby villages. While the rebels were reported to have complied with the agreement, one ethnic Albanian was shot and killed in Tetovo by police. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski announced he has collected evidence to charge eleven leaders of the guerrillas - known as the National Liberation Army (NLA) with war crimes. The list includes NLA political chief Ali Ahmeti, who met with NATO special envoy Pieter Feith Wednesday to conclude the guerrilla withdrawal deal. It was not the first time Mr. Feith has acted as a go-between for President Trajkovski with Mr. Ahmeti. (Signed)
    NEB/PT SLUG: 2-278672 NATO / Macedonia (L only) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: Two western envoys are in Macedonia on yet another mission to stave off civil war in the Balkan country. But as V-O-A's Roger Wilkison reports, it is still not clear if the two -- NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and European Union (E-U) foreign policy chief Javier Solana -- can help avert a conflict.

    TEXT: Mr. Robertson said on his arrival Thursday in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, that if collapsed peace talks between majority Slav and minority ethnic Albanian political parties can be revived, Macedonia could be saved from the killing and carnage that have characterized other Balkan civil wars. Mr. Robertson and Mr. Solana decided on Wednesday to make another trip to Macedonia, despite anti-western riots in Skopje Tuesday night during which ethnic Macedonians accused NATO and western mediators of supporting the ethnic Albanian insurgents who say they are fighting for more rights for their community.

    /// OPT ///

    Slavic Macedonians say the rebels are terrorists who aim to carve off parts of the country where Albanians are a majority and unite them with heavily ethnic Albanian Kosovo. NATO and the E-U strongly denied giving support to the insurgents. /// END OPT ///

    /// OPT ///

    The chance of reviving political negotiations appeared to improve after NATO brokered an agreement calling for the rebels' withdrawal from positions near Tetovo, a town with an ethnic Albanian majority. In exchange, Macedonian security forces promised to exercise restraint, saying they would not launch another offensive as long as the guerrillas committed themselves to the pullback. /// END OPT /// But can the talks make progress after five months of fighting and broken truces? Analyst Mike Taylor of the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London research institute, says that is the key question.

    /// TAYLOR ACTUALITY 1 ///

    NATO and the E-U are not going to give up very easily. They've got a lot invested in keeping Macedonia together. And I suppose they'll keep on trying as long as they think there is some hope.

    /// END ACTUALITY ///

    Mr. Taylor says the main sticking point in the negotiations that were broken off by ethnic Albanian political parties last week is whether Albanian should be an official language of the country, alongside Macedonian. The Macedonians have been reluctant to accept that.

    /// TAYLOR ACTUALITY 2 ///

    The existing constitution says that Albanian can be the official language at the local level. What seems to really anger the Macedonians, and it does seem quite a fine distinction, is that the state will have to use Albanian.

    /// END ACTUALITY ///

    Even if Mr. Robertson and Mr. Solana can find a way around that problem, NATO officials in Brussels wonder whether the parties are really serious about the on-again, off-again negotiations. One official says that, so far, each side's aim seems to be to blame the other every time the so-called peace process unravels and the fighting begins anew. (Signed)
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