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List: ALBSA-Info

[ALBSA-Info] US State Department on the situation in Macedonia

Agron Alibali aalibali at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 12 16:31:58 EDT 2001


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING 
Richard Boucher, Spokesman 
Washington, DC 
June 11, 2001 
INDEX: 
MACEDONIA
1         Statement: National Liberation Army Escalates Conflict
1-3       Situation on the Ground / Ceasefire
2         Travel Advisory
2         Placement of NATO Forces
3         Refugee Flows
 


---------------------------------
TRANSCRIPT_: 
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, if I can, I would like to start out with a statement about the situation in Macedonia, and then I would be glad to take your questions on this or any other topic. 
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the extremist actions of the so-called National Liberation Army. We oppose their violent tactics which aim to undermine Macedonian democracy and threaten regional stability. 
We call for an end to the violence and for the National Liberation Army to withdraw immediately, beginning with Aracinovo. With the occupation of Aracinovo, the extremists have escalated the conflict and pose a potential threat to NATO supply lines. The National Liberation Army actions run directly counter to political reform efforts, harming the true interests of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and throughout the region. 
Let me expand on that last part. The United States welcomes President Trajkovsky's June 8th speech and strongly supports his initiative to advance the political reform dialogue and provide opportunities for those who turn their backs on extremism to reintegrate into Macedonian society. We welcome the Macedonian Government's declaration today of a cease-fire as another strong indication of the courageous restraint in face of extremist provocations. 
We continue to urge the Government of Macedonia to act with restraint in response to the extremist provocations, to use only that force which is necessary and proportionate, and to take steps to avoid endangering civilians. 
QUESTION: It sounds like you're not too optimistic the cease-fire can hold if the extremists are carrying on like that, correct? 
MR. BOUCHER: No. 
QUESTION: Are they a threat? Obviously. 
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I said one way or the other. I think I said, first of all, the actions of the extremists, particularly in occupying this town, constitute an escalation; second of all, the actions of the government in exercising restraint remain the appropriate way for them to go. We think that's still the best course, and added to that, the offer of a cease-fire today. We think it's imperative that the warring factions, that the extremists, abide by that and that they take this offer, and that Albanians as a whole in Macedonia take advantage of these opportunities that the government is creating in order to resolve this peacefully. 
QUESTION: Has the situation on the ground reached a point where you are considering or getting ready to expand on your weekend Travel Warning with perhaps an authorized or ordered departure of diplomats? 
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Travel Warning was June 9th. It replaced and updated the previous security situation information. At this point, that was just done two days ago. I think that's where we want to be for the moment. 
QUESTION: So this new activity doesn't change -- it's not enough yet to make you -- have you change your -- 
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) 
MR. BOUCHER: We haven't changed anything since Saturday. 
QUESTION: Excuse me? Who is answering the questions? 
MR. BOUCHER: I'm answering the question. We haven't changed anything since Saturday. We'll stick there for the moment. 
QUESTION: The State Department has been very clear about the placement of NATO forces in Macedonia proper, but do you have an opinion on forces from, I guess, the coalition of Southeastern European countries and whether they should be able to go in there and stabilize the region? 
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any proposals to that effect that we've been asked to deal with, so I don't know that we have taken a position on something like that. That would be speculative at this point. 
QUESTION: Do you have any idea if the US Government is communicating with elements of NLA or the Albanian Government to accept the kind of pressure not to continue to fight against Skopje? 
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have talks with the extremists. We don't think they deserve or have a seat at the table. As far as other governments in the area, like the Albanians, I am sure we are in touch with them. We are in touch with the Albanian political leadership inside Macedonia, as well. 
And I think generally our view as expressed here is the same one we have expressed to them, and that is we should encourage Albanians in Macedonia to take advantage of the opportunities of the political system to work out their difficulties. And we have put a lot of emphasis on the leadership, including the government coalition which now involves all the parties, in actually opening up those avenues and providing ways for them to resolve their grievances. 
QUESTION: Do you have any idea who is arming the insurgents? 
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if I can get you something on that. I don't have anything here on it. 
QUESTION: One more on this. What is your assessment of the level of popular support for the NLA at this stage? And do you think -- does it seem to be increasing? 
MR. BOUCHER: I think our view remains more or less the same, that there is not widespread popular support for this; that the Albanian political leadership in Macedonia, the leaders of the political parties enjoy the broadest possible support. 
If you look at some of the actions that the extremists have taken, including trying to cut off water supplies to the town of Komanovo, you have seen the actions that they have taken in terms of keeping civilians forcefully bottled up inside some of these cities and now allowing them to leave, you have to assume that, on one hand, their actions alienate the local population and, on the other hand, that they don't consider -- they don't think they do have the support of the local population because they have to keep them locked up at gunpoint sometimes in some of these towns they are in. 
QUESTION: Have you reached any assessments as to why this latest series of attacks has erupted? Do you think it was because the rebels saw that there was a coalition government starting to start political negotiations, or do you think that they were just retreating and waiting for a better opportunity? 
MR. BOUCHER: I can't speculate on their kind of activities. They do a lot of things that don't seem to make sense, so I wouldn't want to try. 
QUESTION: Do you have anything in here specifically about the refugee flow into Kosovo? Or was what you said pretty much it? 
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I have too much. We know that they have pushed even, I think, Albanians out of some of the areas that they have gone into. In other places, they haven't allowed them to leave. And we know that they have denied access to Red Cross officials to go into these areas as well. 
So there is a lot of concern about what they are doing with regards to the local population, and that in turn is causing some people to go into Kosovo. But I don't have any numbers for you at this point. 
QUESTION: The Singapore 



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