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  Macedonia: The Last Chance for Peace

Skopje/Brussels, 20 June 2001: The 11 June cease-fire between the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian rebels (NLA) is precarious, and could easily shatter before the government endorses a viable political settlement that offers equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens. The European Union, the United States and NATO will have to take much more active and explicit roles in Macedonia if civil war is to be avoided.

In a new report published today, Macedonia: The Last Chance for Peace, the International Crisis Group analyses the motives of both the Albanian rebels and the government beyond their stated goals. It concludes that Macedonia’s political leaders will need substantial diplomatic assistance if they are to reach a political agreement strong enough to sustain peace.

ICG President Gareth Evans urged both Europe and the United States to move quickly to appoint special envoys to Macedonia to assist the negotiations. “EU and U.S. insistence that the Macedonians “take ownership” of the process has cost valuable time and yielded negligible results”, he said.

NATO involvement will be crucial to the acceptance of any peace deal by both the government and the rebels. ICG Balkans Program Director Mark Thompson said: “Leading Alliance members, and especially the U.S., should announce readiness to deploy troops as soon as an acceptable peace agreement is signed. Those troops would be used to monitor the disarmament of the rebels, and where relevant, their exit from the country.”

The report argues that while the NLA need not have a formal place at the negotiating table, it cannot be excluded from the negotiating process. An agreement must include an amnesty for NLA fighters and rehabilitation for those who surrender their weapons.

The international community has been trying to avoid making new economic and security commitments to Macedonia, but has been underestimating the scale and gravity of the challenge to government and society that the crisis has activated.

Mark Thompson said: “The divide separating Macedonians and Albanians is deepening by the day. The international community must do everything in its power to push through a political solution. If Macedonia slides into civil war the conflict will be very difficult to contain.”


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