Trajkovski's 'Last Chance' Plan

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski's five-point peace plan is seen as a last chance to avert civil war

Trajkovski's 'Last Chance' Plan

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski's five-point peace plan is seen as a last chance to avert civil war

Macedonia's political leaders and Western officials have welcomed a five-point peace plan from the country's president, Boris Trajkovski.

The republic's main political party leaders are to meet in the southern lakeside town of Ohrid on Thursday and Friday to thrash out the details and discuss political reforms aimed at securing a lasting peace.

Most believe the Trajkovski plan offers the last chance for peace in Macedonia. If it fails to end the four-month-old Albanian rebellion, civil war seems inevitable. Skopje is already buzzing with rumours that a wider Albanian uprising is likely this weekend.

Serbian deputy prime minister Nebojsa Covic, coordinator of the Yugoslav team which negotiated a peaceful resolution of the Albanian insurgency in Presevo, southern Serbia, reportedly played an important role in drawing up the Trajkovski proposal.

The plan was discussed at a meeting in the Greek embassy in Skopje where it won the support of all the Western ambassadors, including the NATO representative Hans Jorg Eif.

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said on Tuesday that Washington "very much welcomed" the Trajkovski initiative, which envisages a partial amnesty for National Liberation Army, NLA, members and the involvement of international troops in the disarmament process.

The plan has five phases, which could be implemented within 45 days.

During phase one, which is already well underway, Macedonian army and police anti-terrorist units are being combined under a joint command structure. Up to now, these units have operated separately, which has undermined their ability to counter the rebels effectively. A more coordinated approach, it is hoped, will improve results and avoid civilian casualties.

Trajkovski's national security advisor Nikola Dimitrov said on Tuesday the newly combined units were modelled on Yugoslav special forces which, he said, had proven to be organisationally successful in ending the crisis in Presevo.

"These units are not meant to be combat units," Dimitrov said. "Their task would be to accomplish special anti-terrorist missions."

Phase two and three envisage "isolating the terrorists". Whenever circumstances allow, security forces plan to surround and blockade NLA-held villages and once in position declare a unilateral cease-fire. The strategy is currently being implemented around Aracinovo, a village just outside Skopje, which was taken over by NLA fighters on Monday. When the truce is in place, Macedonian forces would only open fire if they come under attack.

Phase four - disarmament of the fighters - is the most delicate and the one most lacking in detail. Trajkovski's plan embraces an offer from NATO secretary-general George Robertson to deploy international troops to disarm the rebels. But details on how exactly this is to be achieved have yet to be nailed down.

If the plan is implemented, then NATO forces, almost certainly from Kosovo, would be drawn into action in Macedonia despite the fact that UN Resolution 1244 states that K-For, the international peace-keeping force in Kosovo, has no mandate to operate outside the province.

International troops would be involved in Macedonia in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement within the Partnership for Peace, which Macedonia signed with NATO in November 1995.

The final phase of the plan includes the return of Macedonian security forces to their barracks. Parallel to this, Trajkovski would grant an amnesty to NLA members not implicated in crimes.

Sources close to Macedonian government told IWPR that Covic recommended a "blanket amnesty" on the grounds that the authorities would face serious difficulty in identifying individual NLA members involved in attacks or crimes on Macedonian territory.

On Thursday, Macedonia's key politicians gather in Ohrid to fill in the gaps in the peace plan and to come up with political reforms acceptable to Macedonians and Albanians alike.

No doubt negotiations will get underway on altering the wording of the constitution - a central Albanian demand. At present, the country is defined as a state of Macedonians and others. The Albanians seek parity with Macedonians.

The status of the Albanian language will also be discussed as well as issues surrounding the rule of law in the country, especially in relation to organised crime and money laundering. So too will new election legislation, taxation issues and external funding of extremist groups within Macedonia also be on the agenda.

Professor Ljubomir Frckovski, one of the presidential advisers involved in drawing up an agenda for future talks, described the Trajkovski plan as "excellent". "It really encompasses all controversial points between Macedonians and Albanians," he said.

IWPR sources say Georgievski, leader of the VMRO-DPMNE party, intends to recommend at Ohrid that all nationalist references be removed from the constitution preamble in favour of a formula such as "citizens of the Macedonian state".

The sources say the prime minister also plans to recommend a special parliamentary declaration stressing the continuity of the Macedonian state, which, it is hoped, will calm Macedonian nerves.

But as analysts in Skopje point out, the peace plan will founder unless Macedonian forces recapture Aracinovo.

The NLA commander in the village has threatened to shell the capital and it is thought the Macedonian public will not tolerate political compromises while Albanian extremists pose a threat to the city.

Saso Ordanoski is IWPR editor in Macedonia

Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo
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