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News 03 Aug 11

Kosovo Border Attacks Could Destabilize Macedonia

The leader of the largest Albanian party in Macedonia has warned that future challenges to Kosovo’s borders could lead to uncontrollable unrest in Macedonia.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Skopje

 Ali Ahmeti, the head of Macedonia’s largest Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, outlined his views on the present situation in the north of Kosovo, during an interview with Kosovo’s state broadcaster RTK.

"If there are attempts to change the [Kosovo] borders, I can not take responsibility to be the keeper of the peace in Macedonia because people may organize themselves like in 2001 and noone can control that” he told the broadcaster.

“If such things happen and if the situation got out of control, one can not take responsibility or guarantee that the Albanians will not organize a common front in case they are threatened as a whole” he added.

Ahmeti, whose party is now the junior partner in the government of Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, said he supported the government in Kosovo regarding its attempts to maintain control over its northern border with Serbia.

The latest crisis in the north of Kosovo started on Monday night last week, when Kosovo special police took over two checkpoints in a move to enforce a recent order from Pristina, banning the import of goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The special police encountered resistance from local Serbs, culminating in the torching of one of the border crossings on Wednesday night. One Kosovo policeman was also killed in a fire fight.

“Kosovo authorities acted properly and they have support from the Albanians in Macedonia,” Ahmeti added. “Their actions were aimed at ensuring the territorial integrity and law and I think that Kosovo authorities should be encouraged not to retreat.”

He added that Macedonia could profit from the trade embargo by increasing its role as an importer and transit country for goods entering Kosovo. But he said steps should be taken to prevent any possible re-branding of Serbian products as Macedonian products in order to dupe the trade embargo.

Ahmeti was head of the Albanian rebels during the short-lived Macedonian armed conflict of 2001. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that granted greater rights to Albanians in Macedonia.

In exchange for loyalty towards Macedonia, Albanians who make up one quarter of the country’s population received greater local autonomy, the right to official use of their language and flag and proportional participation in state administration, the police and military.

In 2002,  Ahmeti and former rebel leaders formed the DUI . Since then, the party has maintained its position as the strongest Albanian party in the country.

According to Ahmeti, relations between Macedonia and Kosovo are very good.

Macedonia recognized Kosovo’s independence in 2008. This move was partially attributed to DUI’s influence in the government.

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