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In Kosovo Visit, Macedonia Agrees To International Probe Into Deadly 2015 Shoot-Out

Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj (left) and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, in Pristina on December 12

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has said that there will be an international investigation into a deadly 2015 shoot-out that has strained ties with neighboring Kosovo.

Zaev made the comment on December 12 during the first-ever visit by a Macedonian prime minister to Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Twenty-two people were killed, including eight members of the security forces and 14 gunmen, in a two-day confrontation in May 2015 in the ethnically mixed northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo near the border with Kosovo. Forty police officers were injured.

The clash occurred during a police raid that followed an attack by armed men on a border post.

It was the worst unrest in Macedonia since an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001 ended with a deal providing greater rights for the minority group.

"Such an issue is in the interest of our cooperation and that should not remain an obstacle to our ties," Zaev said in Pristina at a news conference with his Kosovar counterpart, Ramush Haradinaj.

"During today's visit, we have been able to help our relations between Kosovo and Macedonia advance,” Haradinaj said.

On November 2, a Macedonian court sentenced 33 men to lengthy prison terms for involvement in the violence in Kumanovo, triggering protests in Kosovo.

All the defendants, who were ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia, denied the charges against them.

Ethnic Albanians make up about one-quarter of Macedonia’s population of about 2.1 million.