Macedonia ceasefire paves way for rebel disarmament

Ceasefire between Macedonian government and
Albanian rebels raises hopes for political
solution

The ceasefire raises hopes that a political agreement
between the Slavic majority and Albanian minority in
Macedonia can be reached. Ethnic Albanians demand a new
constitution, giving them the status of a constitutive
nation, and a veto on all key government decisions.

NATO has pledged to send 3,000 troops to
Macedonia to disarm the Albanian guerrillas. However, NATO
will only send in troops once there is a durable ceasefire.
The rebels have not yet agreed to put down their
weapons.

 

The Macedonian government and Albanian rebels, who invaded
Macedonia from Kosovo, signed separate ceasefire agreements
with NATO on 5 July. This is the third ceasefire between
the warring parties so far, but the first one that was
actually signed. Sporadic fighting continued past the
midnight deadline, according to radio reports. The EU and
the US welcomed the deal, although NATO is not willing to
send its troops to Macedonia to disarm the Albanian rebels
before there is a durable ceasefire.

 

Fighting between the Albanian guerrillas, who call
themselves the "national liberation army", and government
forces started in February this year when armed Albanian
guerrillas attacked the north of Macedonia across the
border from neighbouring Kosovo and Southern Serbia. The
insurgents say they are fighting for greater rights for the
Albanian minority that accounts for nearly a third of
Macedonia's population. However, there are widespread fears
that their aim is to grab parts of Macedonian territory and
annex it to Kosovo and ultimately to Albania.

 

German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping said that NATO
could deploy its troops in Macedonia soon after 15 July.

 

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