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[ALBSA-Info] 3-EU envoy backtracks on confusing Macedonia callGazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
Wed Jun 27 21:44:15 EDT 2001
3-EU envoy backtracks on confusing Macedonia call PARIS, June 27 (Reuters) - The newly-appointed European Union envoy to Macedonia on Wednesday reaffirmed that EU policy in the Balkans continued to exclude any political dialogue with ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Going back on his comments earlier in the day, former French Defence Minister Francois Leotard said: "I would like to clarify the fact that the position of the European Union has not changed. "The Albanian-speaking guerrillas have no place in the political dialogue which should be conducted only with the legitimate representatives of the political parties," he said in a statement faxed to Reuters. "My work in Skopje as permanent representative of the European Union in Macedonia will be totally based on this line." Earlier on Wednesday, Leotard, speaking on Europe 1 radio, sowed confusion in Brussels and Skopje by saying of the Macedonian government: "They have to speak with these guerrillas to try, with the leaders of this Albanian-speaking part of their country, to see that a consensus emerges and peace can be installed." Western officials, desperate to prevent another Balkan war, have been trying to foster government talks with politicians representing minority ethnic Albanians, but have not said before that the armed rebels should be brought into any negotiations. In Brussels, EU and NATO officials said Leotard's remarks on Europe 1 radio did not reflect the official Western position, which rules out talks with the fighters. They said he may have misspoken, mixing up rebels with the Albanian political leaders. "There is no change in the EU position," one EU diplomat told Reuters. "The policy remains one of deep negotiations on political reform among the leaders of the legitimate political parties, under the leadership of President Boris Trajkovski." A second diplomat said Leotard "may have used a quick formula" giving the impression he was advocating political talks with rebels whereas he meant to say Albanian party leaders. Leotard, defence minister in Paris from 1993 to 1995, was appointed this week to deputise for EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana. He will try and help Macedonia end four months of fighting that has raised fears of another Balkan civil war. SUPPORT Leotard, who is to take up his new post on Thursday, said in the Europe 1 interview that the Macedonian government enjoyed the support of the international community, which wanted to see the former Yugoslav republic's borders respected. He said a civil war in Macedonia would jeopardise the work the EU had done to promote peace in the region since the former Yugoslavia broke up in 1991. "Since 1991, we have had 250,000 dead in Yugoslavia -- lots of soldiers, civilians, women and children have been massacred. We have to have the courage to say 'that's enough'," he said. "Macedonia is the last piece of the puzzle. If that piece is missing, all the rest will be put at risk," he said. "I will try to make peace prevail through negotations between the two parties -- the Albanians who are now engaged in guerrilla fighting and the Macedonian government which has international legitimacy and which wants to protect and defend its frontiers." The EU and NATO clearly found Leotard's comment about rebel talks an embarrassment likely to prompt "I told you so" comments from critics who were opposed to the appointment of a Frenchman out of touch with Kosovo and Macedonia Albanian conflicts. Leotard was proposed by French President Jacques Chirac, and supported by German Chancellor Gerhard Shcroeder. A number of the EU's 15 foreign ministers expressed dissent privately but acceded to the posting at talks in Luxembourg on Monday. NATO said on Wednesday that alliance representatives and EU officials in Macedonia did have "technical" talks with the guerrillas to facilitate the evacuation but remained opposed to them sitting in on political talks on constitutional reform.
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