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FYR of Macedonia: UNHCR warns of population displacement after recent clashes

FYR of Macedonia: UNHCR warns of population displacement after recent clashes

Ruud Lubbers
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today warned of further population displacement in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia unless significant progress was urgently made in implementing the 13 August peace agreement.

"Macedonia is heading dangerously close to a turning point," High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said today at UN Headquarters in New York. "There must be no further delays in the political peace process, particularly on the amnesty issue, if the country is to avert further displacement of its people."

Mr. Lubbers' remarks were in response to rising tensions in the northern part of the country after government forces and former ethnic Albanian rebels clashed over the weekend in the village of Trebos. Three policemen were killed and seven Albanians arrested. Many shops and schools remained closed in Tetovo. Fearing further violence, about 1,000 villagers reportedly fled the village of Ljuboten, north of the capital, Skopje, where intense security operations took place just before the August peace agreement.

"UNHCR will continue to help stabilize Macedonia, assisting the displaced population and returnees of all communities," Amin Awad, UNHCR's Skopje-based head of operations in the FYR of Macedonia, said. "But humanitarian aid alone cannot sustain peace. I sincerely hope the Parliament will finally pass the peace package and send a positive signal to the people."

An effective amnesty is key in normalizing further the situation in the FYR of Macedonia, UNHCR said. Amnesty should not only apply to the former Albanian rebels, but also to draft-evaders and deserters of all communities who had refused to take up arms during the six-month internal conflict.