Trajkovski's five point plan
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski on 8 June announced a peace plan to the nation on state television structured around the following points:
- Gradual return of Macedonian forces to barracks
- Providing for the proportional representation of ethnic Albanians in government at both republic and local levels
- Increased use of the Albanian language in official dealings
- A partial amnesty for UÇK fighters
- "Confidence-building measures"
The points were sketchy on detail, and it is uncertain whether they fully comply with the demands of the extremists to upgrade the Albanian nation and language to full equality with Macedonians. Thus far, the lack of detail has been the main criticism of the plan. Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, visiting Skopje on 9 June voiced his support for the plan and gave Parliament until the 25 June to resolve the legal status of Albanians.
The plan has highlighted the apparent and growing rift between the approaches of President Trajkovski, who appears to be pursuing a programme for dialogue, and Prime Minister Lubčo Georgievski who was accused this week of "hamstringing" the government and holding up progress. Georgievski has long favoured the declaration of a state of national emergency and waging all out war on the UÇK.
This week, a joint command has been established of the army and police, bringing the police under the direct control of Trajkovski, rather than under the Interior Ministry and thus ultimately under Georgievski. It is widely believed that the plan was suggested some time ago and was obstructed by the Prime Minister.
Araçinovo hits the headlines again
The village of Araçinovo on the outskirts of Skopje—famous because of an incident last year in which two Macedonian policemen were shot and killed by unidentified attackers and the wave of anti-Albanian violence the police unleashed in their search for the perpetrators (including one extra-judicial execution)—hit the headlines again on 9 June when members of the UÇKombëtare walked into the village and declared it a free zone.
The village is a highly symbolic one, and the presence of the extremist group so close to Skopje caused a great deal of concern. People questioned how the extremists were able to get such easy access to such a strategic site and worried that it will be used as a base from which to attack the capital city. The move towards Skopje appears to have been in reaction to the continuing barrages behind Kumanovo and to the government's refusal to observe an ultimatum offered by the UÇK to stop their assaults or risk an attack on the capital.
The concern was heightened by a press statement from Commander Ismet Hoxha in which he explicitly cited Petrovec Airport, the country's sole oil refinery, OKTA, police stations and even central government buildings as potential targets. Military experts later said that as the village was ten kilometers from central Skopje and the range of the mortars it is believed the extremists are armed with is only seven kilometers, such widespread and central damage was unlikely. However, the Belgrad-Atina highway is well within range, as is the airport.
In response to this, most international airlines suspended services to Macedonia. UNHCR Skopje report that approximately 7000 people (Macedonians and Albanians alike) fled their homes, Albanians heading towards Kosovo (for the most part) and Macedonians into the capital or to friends and family elsewhere.
KumanovoA fierce assault was launched on rebel positions close to Kumanovo on Monday. It has been over a week since extremists seized control of the reservoir and cut the supply to the town which has more that 100,000 residents. The spokesman for the Macedonian army said the attack was in response to extremists' attacks on houses and on the Orthodox church in Matejce, which was reported to have been set on fire. This offensive was later suspended to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Lipkovo and work on the Lipkovo Dam to try and assuage the water crisis to start.
Six Macedonian police officers were reported injured in Odri, a village near Tetovo, when their vehicle was ambushed. As Macedonian Radio reported, the vehicle was ambushed on the Tetovo-Vratnica road. Tetovo is also suffering from water deficiencies, and water restrictions are getting more common.
Some police stations in Skopje (Gazi Baba, Avtokomanda) have distributed weapons to police reservists and volunteers, and State institutions and enterprises cancelled the summer vacations of their employees reflecting the rising concern in the capital.
And in other news...
- The UÇK have declared that the cease-fire, due to expire on 15 June, has been extended until the 27th.
- The United States continues to support the Macedonian government and criticise the UÇKombëtare. In a statement in Washington on 11 June, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher highlighted the threat that the changing situation around Araçinovo could pose to NATO supply lines. However, the praise of the government was cautious and urged the exercise of restraint to ensure civilians remained as safe as possible.
- EU foreign ministers issued a statement on 11 June condemning the continuing "terrorist actions" and suggesting they turn to "appropriate forms" of protest to make their views known. Greece is watching events in Macedonia closely, to keep an eye on its large investments (totalling some USD 300 million) in the country.
- An ethnic Albanian correspondent of the London based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) was arrested on the outskirts of Skopje and detained for approximately two hours. Veton Latifi was questioned, verbally abused and had his journalistic equipment seized.
- The houses of unspecified Albanian journalists working for the newspaper Fakti were searched, according to Macedonian paper Utrinski Vesnik. Fakti editor Shkelzen Halimi has demanded an explanation from the Interior Ministry.
- General Jovan Andrevski resigned as the army's Chief of Staff on 12 June, citing the "bad morale of his troops" and his sense of responsibility for the deaths of 26 soldiers in the fighting against the UÇK. He is succeeded by his deputy, General Jovan Petkavski.
Eleanor Pritchard, 15 June 2001
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