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EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana
"Nothing can be resolved through violence"
 real 28k

Friday, 23 February, 2001, 18:13 GMT
South Serbia alarm divides summit
Balkan meeting in Skopje
Guerrilla violence tops the meeting's agenda
Fears that ethnic fighting in Serbia could spark a new round of Balkans instability have overshadowed a top-level summit attended by the region's leaders.

Macedonia, which is hosting the summit, says the violent campaign being waged by ethnic Albanians could destablise the whole region - and warned the international community not to underestimate the seriousness of the situation.

It will be extremely dangerous if the international community underestimates the need for an urgent resolution

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski
The ethnic Albanians are fighting for control of territory around Kosovo, including the flashpoint Presevo Valley in the south of the region.

Balkans leaders, who have been been joined at the summit by senior European Union officials, had been due to focus on economic matters as well as security.

But the BBC's Paul Wood at the summit says the meeting has now been overshadowed by the warnings of instability.

Macedonia, which has a large ethnic Albanian minority, is particularly concerned about the risks. The country's president told the summit a ceasefire and disarmament of the rebels were essential.
Macedonia police guard the hotel in Skopje
Tight security is in force for the meeting
"The violence and illegal action of extreme armed groups have continued, and the conflict is escalating," said President Boris Trajkovski.

"The results will be not only serious instability for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but could also also destablise the whole region."

"I warn that it will be extremely dangerous if the international community underestimates the need for an urgent resolution of this problem."

It is the whole of Kosovo that risks paying... if this barbarism carries on

European Commissioner Chris Patten
Senior EU officials at the summit warned that funding for the region could dry up if the violence continued.

"The people of Kosovo need a wake-up call too, because it is the whole of Kosovo that risks paying - literally and figuratively - if this barbarism carries on," said Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten.

Greece has joined Macedonia in condemning the fighters.

"Our main point is a mutual interest in peace in the region and our common will to fight any attempts made by various extremist elements to question existing borders," Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis told reporters.

Summit facts
EU's Javier Solana and Chris Patten there
Held in Macedonian capital, Skopje
Also attended by Greece, Albania,Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Yugoslavia
Discussing security and economy
But correspondents say a condemnation of the fighting might not make it into a final summit declaration, because of objections from Albania itself.

The authorities in Macedonia have already accused the Kosovo militants of deliberately trying to widen the conflict.

Only last week there was an exchange of fire between a group of ethnic Albanians and a Macedonian army patrol.

Two Albanian separatist groups have already emerged inside Macedonia, and although separate from the Kosovo fighters, are sympathetic to their aims and are believed to be receiving weapons from them.

Montenegro warning

But the Macedonian authorities hope they will be spared a Kosovo-syle conflict because ethnic Albanians make up ony a third of the population, and are represented in the government.

The summit is also expected to warn Montenegro not to seek independence from Yugoslavia, on the grounds that it could also spark a new wave of nationalist sentiment elsewhere in the region.

Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Yugoslavia are all at the summit, along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and foreign affairs commissioner, Chris Patten.

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See also:

02 Feb 01 | Americas
US softens line on Balkans troops
24 Jan 01 | Americas
EU to fight Balkan traffickers
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Albania
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Guerrillas threaten fragile peace
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