Macedonians Enraged by Kosovo Vote

Kosovo's rejection of a frontier deal between Belgrade and Skopje has raised fears of a return to armed conflict in the region.

Macedonians Enraged by Kosovo Vote

Kosovo's rejection of a frontier deal between Belgrade and Skopje has raised fears of a return to armed conflict in the region.

Macedonia has reacted angrily to the Pristina parliament's rejection last week of a regional border agreement, which Kosovo Albanians believe undermines their independence aspirations.

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski described the assembly's decision to dismiss the January 2001 border demarcation agreement between Belgrade and Skopje as an act of "cold war" that could destabilise the region for the next decade.

Many people who live in the frontier area fear a repetition of last year's events, when armed conflict between Macedonians and Albanians erupted after the border accord was ratified by the Skopje parliament in February 2001.

Yugoslavia's former president Slobodan Milosevic had refused to take steps to demarcate the administrative frontier during his decade in power, so Macedonia was pleased when his successor, Vojislav Kostunica, agreed to do so soon after taking office.

The move reinforced Belgrade's control of Kosovo's external borders - even though the protectorate is under United Nations administration - angering Kosovo Albanians.

Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski urged his country's assembly to ignore the resolution of the Kosovo parliament, arguing that it was merely a symbolic gesture, as the body has no power to make such declarations.

"It is not necessary to have a debate on this issue since this act is null and has no legal repercussions," Trajkovski said.

But powerful voices in Skopje have rejected this strategy. A defiant Georgievski opened a parliamentary debate on the matter, criticising his own president, the Kosovo parliament and the international community. He urged the Macedonian assembly to respond firmly to the resolution.

Other deputies condemned their ethnic Albanian colleagues for failing - as they saw it - to defend the territorial integrity of Macedonia, declaring such loyalty was essential if the Ohrid peace accord between the two ethnic groups was to survive.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising along the Macedonian-Kosovo border following the Pristina parliament decision.

The army claimed two grenades fired from Kosovo exploded close to the Macedonian village of Tanusevac and that a patrolling armoured personnel carrier came under gunfire from positions inside Kosovo. NATO officials have played down the incidents, saying they were not serious.

The Macedonian parliament passed a resolution on May 29 calling for the annulment of the Kosovo parliament resolution and confirmation of last year's agreement between Skopje and Belgrade. It also asked for international support for the deal.

The Albanian parties in the parliament abstained from voting. The Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, boycotted the debate on the border issue although its deputies had voted to ratify the agreement between Belgrade and Skopje.

Aleksandar Florovski, a deputy from the ruling VMRO-DPMNE, accused the Albanian political establishment in Macedonia of "undermining" the Ohrid Agreement. He urged the Albanian politicians to show their good faith by publicly appealing for an end to armed attacks from Kosovo on Macedonian security forces.

Agim Fetahu is IWPR's Macedonia Project Director. Veton Latifi contributed to this article.

Macedonia, Kosovo
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