As fighting rages around Tetovo, Albania is divided on how best to deal with the ethnic Albanian extremists who have been exchanging fire with Macedonian authorities.
Tirana's leftist ruling parties have, for the most part, condemned the violence in Macedonia and have urged ethnic Albanian extremists to put down their guns.
After a meeting in Tirana, Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta and the leaders of Macedonia's two main ethnic Albanian parties, Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeraj, stated that any violence is counterproductive to Albanian interests and the position adopted by political representatives of the Albanian community in Macedonia.
The good and the bad
Last week, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo met with his Macedonian counterpart, Srdjan Kerim, in the northeastern Albanian town of Peshkopia to discuss the constructive role Albania can play in light of tensions in Macedonia. Kerim stated after the meeting that the Macedonian government does not hold all Albanians responsible for the recent violence.
Later in the week, leaders of regional parliaments met in Skopje to exchange opinions on the implementation of the Stability Pact, but the meeting was reduced to bilateral discussions on the events in the Tetovo environs.
Meanwhile, Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski stated in a public meeting in Skopje that the West is permitting the creation of "a new Taliban in Europe," alluding to Afghanistan's ultra-radical Islamic movement.
Watch your mouth
Albania's Foreign Ministry replied, stating that what is happening in Macedonia cannot be colored with unacceptable terms that reflect haste and uncertainty more than reality.
"We must be careful in using terms which give religious character to the actual situation in Macedonia," said Paskal Milo, adding that, "This is harmful, and it doesn't help the cohesion of the Macedonian state."
Georgievski, who seemingly forgot that Albanians are part of Macedonia, believes that NATO owes his country a moral debt for allowing it to be used as the staging area for NATO's 1999 war against Yugoslavia. He said "You cannot convince us that the chieftains of these gangs are unknown to your governments, nor can you persuade us that they cannot be stopped," referring mostly to Washington and Berlin.
Desiring equal treatment, the Albanian extremists say they are fighting to improve conditions for the estimated 500,000 ethnic Albanians who live in Macedonia.
Meanwhile, at the academy
Georgi Efremov, the rector of the Macedonian Arts and Science Academy (MASA), has sent an open letter to Ylli Popa, the rector of the Albania's Science Academy (ASA), reminding him of a meeting held two years ago between the two academies in Tirana:
Two years ago, our academies exchanged their respective points of view. The first was your platform for the resolution of the ethnic Albanian problem, and the second was our opposing view point… We did not get any positive response for our critical approach, but now it seems we get it in Tanusheve.
Popa expressed his personal condolences to Efremov for the victims from both the Macedonian and Albanian sides and said that ASA has never called for violence or a greater Albania.
"The platform of ASA, in relation to Macedonia, does express the will to see the Albanians in this country as equal citizens in their state. We do consider the violent acts of some Albanian extremist groups as unacceptable," Popa continued.
Ali Dhrimo, writing in the Albanian newspaper Shekulli, said, "Macedonian politicians have feared for ten long years that the Albanians were trying to have a private University of Albanian. They do want Albanians in Macedonia, but not educated ones, because this could relieve Albanians [of their] third-class citizenship [and give them] equal citizenship."
Macedonian politicians, instead of using politics to resolve the crisis, have sent tanks and armoured personnel carriers into Tetovo, bombing the Albanian extremist positions and backing up the police units, in effect.
Bardhyl Londo, a well-known independent analyst, said in the Albanian newspaper Tema that, unfortunately, in these difficult days, Albania—including official Tirana—sees the present crisis in Macedonia as an opportunity to show "its own moderate policy" to the international community, rather than asking itself why violence has broken out in Macedonia.
Artur Nura, 26 March 2001
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