Macedonia approves new NATO protection force

Under pressure from the EU, Macedonia approved
on Monday 17 September the deployment of a NATO security force
on its territory, in order to secure the fragile peace
agreement with the Albanian minority.

EU leaders fear for the security of the disarmed Albanian
rebels if NATO troops withdraw without some form of
follow-up “stabilisation force” – and vengeful Macedonian
security forces might tempt the Albanian guerillas into a
new uprising. The Macedonian parliament, however, are
suspicious that such a force would be a manoeuvre by
Albanian separatists to obtain a breakaway fiefdom in the
north of the ex-Yugoslav republic, similar to the situation
in Cyprus.

NATO insisted it had no intention of
starting a third Balkans peace enforcement mission, but
said that a back-up force is necessary for the security of
the 250 foreign civilian monitors assigned to oversee the
reintegration of Albanian minority areas.

The details have yet to be worked out by
a special government working group, but the restricted NATO
mission is likely to be composed of about 200 soldiers on
the ground, most probably soldiers who are already present
in Macedonia.

 

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.

 

On Wednesday, the parliament will discuss 30 constitutional
amendments, giving more rights to the Albanian minority.
Nationalist hardliners however said they will try to block
or water down the reforms, or even push for a referendum,
which could break the peace deal.

 

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