EU backs new NATO-led force for Macedonia

European Union foreign ministers called for a
smaller NATO-led force to remain in Macedonia to protect OSCE
observers when NATO’s “Essential Harvest” operations end on 26
September. The EU ministers rejected a proposal by the EU’s
special envoy to Macedonia, François Léotard, that
the EU should send in its own force to oversee the return of
over 70,000 displaced persons.

The foreign ministers supported the option of the
deployment of a NATO force with a mandate of the United
Nations Security Council in order to avoid “a security
vacuum” when NATO withdraws.

Only Britain opposed the idea of a UN
mandate. It shares Washington’s concerns over the potential
role of Russia and China in deciding a NATO mission in
Macedonia.

Russia and Ukraine would be invited to
take part in such an operation.

The EU also agreed to maintain and
augment the presence of its observers in Macedonia.

 

Macedonian government sources have indicated that they
would not welcome another NATO mission in Macedonia.
Macedonia's President Boris Trajkovski said that NATO
should leave Macedonia once its mission is completed. He
said that Macedonia would prefer an operation with a UN
mandate.

EU diplomats have made it known,
however, that the Union's financial aid to Skopje would
depend on Macedonian co-operation.

NATO, however, has indicated that it had
no intention to extend its mission in Macedonia, or to
start a new operation.

 

A peace deal was signed on 13 August by the Macedonian
government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas with the aim of
ending the conflict that started in February. The deal
gives official recognition to the Albanian language and
outlines plans for the police to reflect more accurately
the ethnic balance in the country. Ethnic Albanian
guerrillas agreed on 14 August to hand over their arms to
NATO forces in return for the promise of amnesty from
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.

NATO's 3,500-strong force started
collecting weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels on Monday,
27 August. The mission is scheduled to last 30 days.

 

The EU Commission is organising a donors conference for
Macedonia on 15 October on the condition that Macedonia
starts implementing the constitutional reforms, adopted by
the Macedonian parliament on 6 September.

EU foreign ministers have also discussed
the possibility of organising a new regional conference on
the Balkans.

 

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