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Hailing Macedonian peace deal, UN agency urges more international monitoring

Hailing Macedonian peace deal, UN agency urges more international monitoring

Days after the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia signed a peace agreement with four political parties, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stressed the need for more international monitors to be deployed to the area, in addition to the advance party of troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that arrived today.

Briefing the press in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said the agency's special envoy for the Balkans, Eric Morris, was in Vienna today for talks with senior officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to encourage the deployment of a more substantial international monitoring presence. "UNHCR sees a boost in the number of monitors as critical both for peace implementation and for creating conditions for safe and sustainable returns," the spokesman said.

Mr. Janowski also said the agency was alarmed about the number of persons who remain displaced within the FYR of Macedonia despite the signing of the agreement. More than 7,000 displaced persons have been registered by the Macedonian Red Cross during the last three days, bringing the total number of people displaced to over 60,000. "As one example, more than 5,000 persons have relocated within the town of Tetovo during the last days," he said. "Another 195 persons have left their homes in Lubanci and Ljuboten close to Skopje, where heavy fighting took place during the weekend."

UNHCR's planned activities in support of return include emergency housing repairs, monitoring of return areas, confidence-building measures, issuing identity documents, and promoting dialogue between ethnic communities in mixed villages. UNHCR's mobile teams are already working in areas where the security situation improved slightly over the past 48 hours, such as Aracinovo, and Kumanovo.

"At the same time, UNHCR will continue to be cautious not to encourage return to areas where security assessments have not been carried out, and where conditions for safe return have not yet been established," the spokesman said.