NATO approves new operation in Macedonia

NATO’s 19 defence ministers have approved the
deployment of a new military force to oversee the
implementation of the peace agreement between the Macedonian
government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. The new NATO force
has received the unanimous support of the United Nations
Security Council on 26 September.

The new NATO mission, named “Amber Fox”, will protect the
international observers monitoring the implementation of
the peace plan in Macedonia. The new force will be smaller
and will be led by Germany.

The NATO force is intended to stave off
a civil war, but the political process is crucial. The
Macedonian parliament has given initial approval to
constitutional changes that would improve the position of
the Albanian minority. The reforms, which are part of the
EU and NATO-backed peace plan, will be first subjected to a
ten-day public consultation and then passed to the
parliament for final approval.


The peace agreement was signed on 13 August by the
Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas with
the aim of ending a seven-month 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.

NATO's first operation in Macedonia,
"Essential Harvest", was concluded on 26 September. During
a 30-day mission, the 4,500-strong British-led force
collected about 3,800 weapons, handed from the ethnic
Albanian rebels.


The ratification of constitutional changes requires a
two-third majority in the parliament, which will be hard to
obtain. The Macedonian government is also stalling an
amnesty for the guerrillas. In addition, nationalists want
to put the amendments to a referendum, which could further
delay the implementation of the peace plan.


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