Macedonia Violence Worries Balkan Neighbours

11 May 15
Macedonia Violence Worries Balkan Neighbours

Politicians and security chiefs in Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania have voiced concerns about the weekend clashes in Macedonia and their potentially destabilising effect on the region.

Pristina, Belgrade, Tirana, Sofia, Podgorica

Kosovo’s president Atifete Jahjaga. | Photo by Beta

Kosovo’s president and prime minister, Atifete Jahjaga and Isa Mustafa, expressed deep concern on Monday about the involvement of Kosovo citizens in gun battles with police in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo at the weekend.

Jahjaga and Mustafa said in a joint statement the violence was intended “to destabilise Kosovo and neighbouring countries by challenging peace and safety”.

Jahjaga and Mustafa called for a transparent and credible investigation into the Kumanovo fighting and said that Kosovo’s institutions would continue to offer full assistance to the Macedonian authorities.

“The Republic of Kosovo remains committed to a multi-ethnic and stable Macedonia, with which Kosovo enjoys good neighbourly relations,” their statement said.

Gun battles between police and a previously unknown armed group in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo on May 9 and 10 left eight policemen dead and some 37 wounded. At least 14 gunmen were also killed.

The Macedonian national security council said the group of several dozen people had planned terror attacks across the country, intending serious destabilisation.

Petar Cvetkovic, head of Serbia’s Military Security Agency, said on Monday that Serbian security forces had warned their Macedonian colleagues of potential security issues in the north of the country in April, but the Macedonian authorities had dismissed the information as “exaggerated”.

Cvetkovic said Serbian security agencies had informed Skopje that a large group of ethnic Albanian “terrorists” was active in Macedonia on a mission to carve out a ‘Greater Albania’.

Cvetkovic said that the Serbian army and police had strengthened their presence on the borders with Macedonia and Kosovo because there were also concerns that a number of the fighters had fled Kumanovo following the weekend battles.

Milorad Veljovic, head of the Serbian police, said there was no information suggesting the conflict might spill over from Macedonia to Serbia, but that both police and army were closely monitoring the situation.

“We cannot relax for a moment, as this zone is very sensitive and we must be ready at any moment,” Veljovic said on Monday.

In a statement released on Sunday, the Albanian government said it had “followed with great concern the tragic events” in Macedonia.

“Expressing our deep regret for the loss of human lives, the government of Albania is steadfast that the crisis should not escalate. The latest developments in Kumanovo have breached the normality of inter-ethnic relations, which remain fragile,” the Albanian government wrote.

The government in Tirana also called for transparent investigation into the attacks in Kumanovo.

“The cloud of ambiguity over what has happened in Kumanovo, which has kept Albanians anxious wherever they live, should be followed by complete transparency on the event,” the statement said.

Boiko Borisov, the prime minister of neighbouring Bulgaria, said on Sunday that he was following the situation in Macedonia and believes that the events in Kumanovo were the result of deeper political issues that Macedonia is facing.

“I hope they will take [things] in their hands and regulate their state… if there is mistrust for some or other reason… then people put their trust back in themselves,” he was quoted as saying.

In Montenegro, civil society organisations and politicians also called for peace in the region.

The Civic Alliance, a prominent watchdog, called on the international community on Sunday “not to allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated in the Western Balkans.

In an open letter, the organisation said that the dramatic events in Kumanovo hinted at the opening a new chapter of violence in the Balkans.

Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)