Moscow, 6 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov today met with top U.S. and European Balkan envoys to discuss next steps in establishing peace in Macedonia. Ivanov met with Francois Leotard from the European Union, James Pardew, the U.S. envoy to Macedonia, and Max van der Stoel of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Leotard said on the eve of the talks in Moscow that more unarmed OSCE monitors should be deployed in Macedonia. He also proposed the dispatch of a small EU force to oversee the implementation of a peace accord. There are about 50 OSCE and EU monitors currently deployed in Macedonia. The Macedonian parliament is to resume debate for the fifth day today on whether to back the Western-supported peace accord.
The debate was extended into today after lawmakers continued speeches late into last night.
Parliament speaker Stojan Andov said he plans to meet with parliament leaders in a bid to end the discussion and move toward a vote on whether to start the process of changing the constitution to give ethnic Albanians greater language and other rights.
Approval by a two-thirds majority will clear the way for NATO forces to resume collecting weapons voluntarily surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels.
Ethnic Albanian rebels, who have been fighting government forces for seven months, pledged to hand over weapons in return for greater minority rights foreseen in the accord.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, on a visit to Skopje yesterday, urged the lawmakers to vote yes, saying the Macedonian peace process is crucial to regional security.
A European Union team led by foreign policy chief Javier Solana and External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten is due to arrive in Skopje today to discuss international aid to Macedonia after the peace pact is approved and implementation begins.