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Balkan Report: August 7, 2001

7 August 2001, Volume 5, Number 55

MACEDONIA: PEACE TALKS SUCCESSFUL, CIVIL WAR INEVITABLE? EU envoy Francois Leotard announced in Ohrid on 1 August that the peace talks between the leaders of the main ethnic Macedonian and Albanian political parties produced a compromise on the use of the Albanian language in Macedonian state institutions. This was widely seen as a major breakthrough, but Leotard himself hurried to add that "this accord is conditional on the continuation of the political discussions, notably on the issue of the police. Therefore, it is a conditional agreement" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001).

Leotard's U.S. counterpart, James Pardew, was not willing to show too much optimism, either. According to AP, Pardew said: "This is a good deal for everyone, but I am not euphoric. There's a lot of tough work ahead. This is not the end of the negotiations."

The two mediators were joined by Javier Solana, EU representative for foreign and security policy, who came to Macedonia on 5 August. After several meetings with the Macedonian and Albanian party leaders, he told a press conference that an agreement had been reached on the police issue, but did not give any details.

Some Western as well as domestic observers, however, are becoming increasingly skeptical as to whether a negotiated peace will be stable and lasting, even if the negotiations should produce what looks like a workable compromise. There are too many open questions about whether and how any agreement reached by the political leaders can actually be implemented.

First, it is unclear what role the National Liberation Army (UCK) will play after a peace agreement. Will the rebel organization accept an agreement that only the legally elected representatives of the Albanian minority have negotiated? Or will the UCK leadership start a new round of violent clashes because its original demands have not been met?

It is clear that Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) and Imer Imeri of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) are in close contact with the guerrillas. The rebels, for their part, have placed immense pressure on Xhaferi and Imeri -- there are rumors that both party leaders were given silver bullets as a warning. Whether or not this is true, the Albanian negotiators are likely to try to avoid any conflict with the UCK.

On the other hand, the Albanian population of Macedonia will most likely gain from any agreement, at least at first sight. The legal status of the minority will improve and their representation in state institutions will increase. But what about their future co-existence with their Macedonian neighbors, many of whom have become increasingly suspicious and resentful in recent months? The question is whether the Albanians' improvement in status will outweigh the long-term damage to interethnic relations.

Second, there is no guarantee that any agreement can gain approval in the parliament. The current peace talks have been held under the auspices of President Boris Trajkovski and mediated by U.S. and EU envoys. The leaders of the four main ethnic Albanian and Macedonian political parties have been the main participants. But there is widespread criticism that neither the Macedonian parliament nor the smaller ethnic minorities have been included in the political dialogue (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 July 2001).

For his part, parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov of the Liberal Party, who is more of a hawk than a dove, said in his Ilinden speech in Krusevo that the parliament will decide about any peace agreement only after the rebels' disarm (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2001).

Third, there is no guarantee that the Macedonian public will accept any peace deal signed under pressure from armed rebels. In this respect, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's speech on 2 August was symptomatic. Speaking at Prohor Pcinjski monastery, he said: "I would like to point out that Macedonia has military equipment and capable soldiers and policemen, who are ready to restore the constitutional order in the country. Territorial integrity must be re-established prior to the signing of any agreements, which have to be in the interest of the Republic of Macedonia."

It is not clear whether by "military equipment and capable soldiers" he also meant the paramilitary formations that have recently been formed in Kicevo and Mavrovo (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June 2001). What is clear, however, is that Georgievski is well aware of the militant mood among broad sections of the ethnic Macedonian population (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001).

An opinion poll published by the Skopje bimonthly "Forum" on 27 July shows that some 61 percent of those interviewed -- including Macedonians, Albanians, and members of other minorities -- opted for a peaceful solution to the current crisis. But while a military solution does not have any support among the Albanian respondents, some 30 percent of the Macedonians preferred an armed conflict to a negotiated agreement.

This finding was underscored by the answers given to the second question: "Would you [support] any action against the terrorists?" Some 83 percent of the Macedonians answered positively to this question. Thus, any military option triggered by hard-liners inside or outside the Macedonian government would likely find broad support among the population.

If one accepts the results of this opinion poll as being representative of society as a whole, the future of Macedonian does not look very promising. Even if a civil war can be avoided, the country will remain divided along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001).

Here again, the respondents from the two major ethnic groups clearly differ. Asked whether they think that the Albanians and the Macedonians can live together in the future, both groups overwhelmingly (some 60 percent each) answered in the affirmative. But while 40 percent of the Albanians responded "don't know" or did not answer the question at all, there were 22 percent of the Macedonian respondents who thought that peaceful co-existence of the two communities is not possible. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,

MACEDONIA'S FRCKOVSKI: DETERMINATION PAYS. Ljubomir Frckovski was foreign minister in the Social Democratic-led government of Macedonia before the 1998 elections. He recently told Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service that the Macedonian authorities must remain firm while avoiding excessively tough behavior.

Referring to the ethnic cleansing of Macedonian civilians by the UCK near Tetovo recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001), Frckovski said that the security forces should never have allowed the UCK to move into the villages in the first place. He stressed that they should have called for reinforcements rather than retreat. He also criticized the international community for not being sufficiently tough with the guerrillas.

The former minister noted that the biggest overall danger is that the Macedonian political leaders might lose control over the political situation. He suggested that Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski recognizes this, and for that reason sometimes says things that might otherwise seem too tough or populistic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). Frckovski maintains that Georgievski wants to keep control of the political situation and thereby strengthen his hand in the political talks.

Frckovski agrees that President Boris Trajkovski is concerned about his reputation and image abroad. The former minister adds, however, that the president knows that he must be firm in the talks lest he jeopardize his reputation and authority at home.

Firmness, Frckovski suggests, will pay off in the end. What must come out of the talks is a solid political framework and an "increased foreign presence" to help keep the peace. He notes that it is not necessary to insist that the ethnic groups love each other. What is important is that they can work together and save the situation. (Patrick Moore)

KRSTIC GENOCIDE CONVICTION: A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? The 2 August guilty verdict against Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic was the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY) first conviction on a charge of genocide. The case sets a precedent for The Hague-based tribunal and is likely to have ramifications for the fate of Krstic's superiors.

"In July 1995, General Krstic, individually, you agreed to evil, and this is why today, this trial chamber convicts you and sentences you to 46 years in prison."

Those were the words of Presiding Judge Almiro Rodrigues, as he sentenced Krstic for the July 1995 massacre of up to 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men in the UN "safe haven" of Srebrenica -- generally regarded as the largest single atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

ICTY spokesman Jim Landale told RFE/RL the judgment was a triumph for the eight-year-old tribunal: "Well, this is a landmark judgement today at the tribunal. While we have had other people charged with genocide, and, in fact, two people acquitted of genocide, this is the first time any individual has been convicted of genocide. So, it is an extremely significant development for the tribunal."

The verdict is likely to have an impact beyond Krstic himself. Observers say it will have far-reaching ramifications for other suspects from the former Yugoslavia.

Those include former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his top general, Ratko Mladic -- both of whom have been indicted for genocide -- and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He is awaiting trial in The Hague on lesser charges of crimes against humanity that are limited -- so far -- to his actions in Kosova.

Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor for both the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia tribunals, welcomed the verdict as a victory for international justice: "Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has indicated that [further] charges [against Milosevic] will be coming, and I think that's very important, but the significance of [the 2 August ruling is] only going to be relevant if and when Milosevic will be indicted for crimes which are directly related to what happened in Bosnia."

Avril McDonald, a lawyer working at the Asser Institute in The Hague, was in the courtroom to hear the verdict. She notes that while Krstic's conviction does not mark the first international genocide verdict -- the Rwanda tribunal in Tanzania has already handed down nine such convictions -- the ruling is a harbinger of how future Yugoslav cases will be handled: "Krstic was merely executing a plan which had been cooked up by [his superiors]. Krstic was the second-most senior military person in Bosnia at the most relevant time; under Mladic he was the most senior person. Responsibility for planning the genocide -- as the courts said, the ethnic cleansing became a genocide -- [rested] with highers-up. Who could that be? Probably Karadzic, Mladic, and Milosevic. So it's only going to help any case against them. Milosevic hasn't yet been charged for Bosnia, but this is definitely going to make it easier [for the prosecutors]."

McDonald says another significant aspect to the Krstic case is that it contributes to determining what constitutes genocide, especially as the judges said they had been influenced by earlier verdicts: "What that appeals chamber found was that a single person could actually commit genocide. It's not necessary to be part of a group to commit genocide. It all turns on the intent the person has, and one person acting alone could conceivably commit genocide. So that was something new. The Rwandan tribunal has already found genocide has been committed there, and has analyzed it pretty exhaustively. [This] is the first attempt to analyze [genocide] within the Yugoslav context."

She said if the tribunal had been unable to get a conviction against Krstic for the Srebrenica massacre -- which had been painstakingly investigated -- it would not be able to get one in any other case. But she believes that despite the conviction, the sentence was very lenient: "Given that I felt the case against Krstic was pretty strong, I was quietly optimistic that they would get a conviction. So I'm very satisfied with that result, with the conviction, though not with the sentence. I believe it doesn't really reflect the gravity of the crime."

This is a view shared by many, not least the women whose husbands and sons were killed. Critics point to the 45-year sentence given to General Tihomir Blaskic, a Bosnian Croat who was convicted on lesser charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" said Krstic's sentence makes a mockery of the victims of Srebrenica. It said: "For every person in Srebrenica he ordered to be killed, Krstic got two days of prison."

But Mary Greer, The Hague representative of the non-governmental Coalition for International Justice, says it's always tricky to compare sentences: "You could tell with the 46 years they were trying to get barely over the 45 years, which was the sentence that General Blaskic got. Obviously they are saving life sentences -- life in the legal definition -- for other individuals [who] would likely be Mladic, Karadzic, [and] Milosevic."

Balkan Stability Pact coordinator Bodo Hombach said on 3 August he expects Karadzic and Mladic to be arrested and transferred to The Hague tribunal this year.

Until that happens, Krstic's conviction will mark just the first step in bringing to justice those responsible for what happened in the fields and forests around Srebrenica in July 1995. (Kathleen Knox, with Bruce Jacobs and Oleh Zwadiuk)

KRSTIC INDICTMENT TO HELP SARAJEVO'S CASE AGAINST BELGRADE? The conviction of Krstic could also impact on future proceedings stemming from the Bosnian conflict of 1992-1995. Kasim Trnka, who represents Bosnia at The Hague-based International Court of Justice, told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service after Krstic's sentencing that Bosnia's case against Yugoslavia before that court now stands a better chance of success. Trnka noted that it is clear that Belgrade paid the salaries of the Bosnian Serb officers, and that there is additional evidence of Belgrade's direct involvement in the conflict.

In any event, the Cologne-based broadcaster noted in a commentary that pressure is certain to increase on Belgrade and Banja Luka to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal. Serbia has extradited only Milosevic, and that was because it wanted a successful international donors' conference. The Republika Srpska has not extradited a single indicted war criminal. Croatia has not extradited any indicted war criminal, either, but its government cooperates with The Hague and has helped convince several indicted individuals to turn themselves in. (Patrick Moore)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "The situation on the ground in the crisis getting complicated by the fact that the Albanian terrorists are continuing their provocations." -- Macedonian Defense Ministry spokesman in Skopje on 3 August. Quoted by Reuters.

"The cease-fire doesn't apply to the Macedonian police forces." -- UCK Commander Leka, near Tetovo on 3 August. Quoted by Reuters.

"All of these [peace] efforts will be useless if the people of the country do not want to forget the past and move forward." -- EU security policy chief Javier Solana. Quoted by Reuters in Ohrid on 6 August.

"Bulgaria cannot act as a mediator in a conflict in which it has not been invited to mediate." -- New Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, announcing an end to former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's attempt to mediate in the Macedonian crisis. Quoted by dpa in Sofia on 3 August.

"We have nothing to talk about with Serb representatives from Belgrade except independent Kosova.... It's enough for us that the international community is here and we will cooperate with them. As far as official Belgrade is concerned, they can join in [talks] only when resolving Kosova's independence is on the agenda." -- Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, to the Belgrade pro-Kostunica daily "Politika" on 4 August. Quoted by Reuters.

"A prison is a prison, but I feel that The Hague prison is more civilized than [the prison] in Belgrade." -- Milosevic's wife Mira Markovic, to the German weekly "Der Spiegel" of 6 August.