Will NATO force in Macedonia be replaced?

Over the past week there has been a great deal
of speculation over the fate of Macedonia after NATO’s mission
ends on 26 September. The European Union, Russia and NATO have
all offered different solutions varying from a military force
staying in Macedonia under a United Nations mandate to an
extension of NATO’s mission.

Macedonia’s Security Council met on Wednesday (12
September) to discuss the possibility of a UN force being
deployed along Macedonia’s borders with Kosovo and Albania.
The council noted that such a deployment would require
consultation with the UN Security Council.

NATO’s mission to collect arms from
ethnic Albanians is going according to plans. Approximately
two thirds of the weapons have been handed in, and the
Macedonian parliament is due to resume debating the
constitutional and legislative changes. However, one third
of the rifles and other field weapons so far collected by
NATO troops do not work and may not have been used in
recent fighting, according to military sources.

 

After yesterday's (12 September) regular meeting of the
North Atlantic Council, NATO announced that they will
continue with their current mission in Macedonia as
scheduled. However, their attitude towards extending
"Operation Harvest" or building a new force after the 26 of
September has shifted. NATO agrees there should not be a
"security vacuum" once their troops leave and has offered
to follow up their current mission but only with the
permission of Macedonia's government.

EU foreign ministers met last weekend,
8-9 September, at an informal meeting in Genval, Belgium to
discuss the possibility of replacing the NATO force with a
force from EU Member States. They agreed that a
multinational force is needed in Macedonia after NATO
completes its mission. The EU ministers believe such a
contingent would be used to protect OSCE civilian monitors
and act as a buffer between Macedonians and ethnic
Albanians. They would like to see a NATO led force under a
UN mandate.

Russia said it was willing to support a
military force in Macedonia after the end of the current
NATO mission but only if it gets the backing from the
United Nations. A spokesperson for the Russian foreign
ministry said the main task of any mission should be the
monitoring of Macedonia's borders with Kosovo and
Albania.

 

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