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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 17:05 GMT
Russia blames West for Macedonia conflict
KLA rebels in the village of Selce near Tetovo
The rebels are now being increasingly seen as "terrorists"
By the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Barnaby Mason

As tension rises in Macedonia, the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, has called on Balkan states to conclude an agreement to respect each other's borders and not support those involved in terrorism against their neighbours.

Speaking during a visit to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, Mr Ivanov also blamed the West for the spread of the Kosovo conflict into Albanian-populated areas of Macedonia.

Igor Ivanov
The Russian foreign minister wants Balkan states to pledge border integrity
Western governments are discussing ways of tightening up control of the southern Kosovo border to stop Albanian guerrillas from crossing into Macedonia.

Both the Russians and some western governments are now describing the ethnic Albanian guerrillas operating in Macedonia as terrorists.

That is a change for the West, which during the Kosovo confrontation saw them as a useful counterweight to the then Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic.

Igor Ivanov said a passive reaction by the West to the spread of the Kosovo conflict to Macedonia had helped the separatists become more radical.

But at the same time he gave a warning that the vicious circle of violence in the Balkans could not be broken by bombing from the air or a large military presence.

Borders pact

Mr Ivanov's idea is that states in the region should conclude an agreement to respect each other's borders and sovereignty, and stop their territory being used to mount terrorist activity.

Special Macedonian police train their sights on guerrilla positions
Macedonian forces respond to rebel attacks
He suggested that the United Nations Security Council could guarantee the pact. Such an agreement might have symbolic value, but it is hard to see what practical difference it would make.

The public position of governments in the Balkans is that they do not support the Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia.

There is backing from inside Kosovo, but Kosovo is not an independent country which could sign up to a pact.

Western governments have committed themselves to tightening up control of the Kosovo-Macedonia border, and are considering what extra help they can give to the Macedonian military.

But there is no thought at present of military intervention. The line is that this is not an old-style Balkans conflict between a repressive government and a large section of its people.

European Union leaders have invited the Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, to address them in Stockholm on Friday, and the summit is expected to give him emphatic political support.

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | Europe
Macedonia prepares 'final push'
20 Mar 01 | Europe
The military balance
19 Mar 01 | Europe
Putin hardens Balkan stance
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