Friday, June 06, 2008

Gruevski: No deadline for Kosovo recognition

Macedonia has no deadline to recognize Kosovo and will not make a decision about this under anyone's pressure, Grueski, whose VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition triumphed in the Sunday vote, winning more than half of all seats in the new Macedonian parliament.

When Beta news agency's reporter in Skopje asked the Macedonian premier how the government plans to withstand pressure from the two ethnic Albanian parties to immediately recognize the unilateral secession, he answered that his government "does not make decisions under pressure".

"Pressure, and strong pressure at that, existed, but Macedonia has her state interests, policy, arguments, partners, there's the EU and NATO. We are not indifferent to pressure, but we do not make decisions under it," Grueski explained.

Asked to explicitly say whether there was a deadline for Skopje to make the recognition, he answered, "there are no deadlines".

As for the controversial border demarcation with Kosovo, envisaged under the Ahtisaari document, but rejected by Belgrade, he said Macedonia could have ended this ahead of schedule, but that it was his feeling that "the other [Kosovo Albanian] side is not overly interested".

Belgrade's request to be included in this process, Grueski said, is not up to Macedonia to consider, because his country "is not a factor that can independently make a decision on this", but that, "if the international community decides to, it will be put up for consideration".

Asked to appraise the situation in the region in the context of election violence in Macedonia, a likely deterioration of relations with Serbia in case of a Kosovo recognition, and Serbia's problems putting together a new government, Grueski said that the Balkans has always been turbulent, and continues to be such today.

"There are always goings-on in the Balkans that baffle western politicians and analysts. We must try to reduce the number of such occurrences and events and to, through mutual understanding and tolerance, intensively prepare for Euro-Atlantic integrations, in other words, for EU and NATO membership," he said.

The Macedonian prime minister added that his government was unsure which of the possible cabinets in Serbia – a Radical or a Democrat-led– would prove to be a better partner.

"I don't know which one we would cooperate better with, since we know one [side] well, unlike the other. Still, since our government is strongly oriented toward Euro-Atlantic integrations, any cabinet in Serbia along the same lines will be our partner that we will have more understanding for," Grueski told the news agency.

Reacting to yesterday's Kosovo assembly speaker Jakup Krasniqi's comments that Macedonian elections were not free and that the ballot's results should be annulled, the Macedonian prime minister said that although he did not hear this statement earlier, "if it proves to be correct, it comes from people who have insufficient knowledge of the Macedonian circumstances , and myself as premier".

Gruevski stressed that trouble during the voting over the weekend, that included several shooting incidents and one fatality, occurred "only on two percent of the territory" and in ethnic Albanian regions of the country, and voiced hope that revotes in some polling stations in two weeks' time will be conducted peacefully.

The prime minister also addressed Macedonia's long standing dispute with Greece over the country's constitutional name. Although his party's coalition will have the absolute majority of 64 seats in the Sobranie – Macedonia's parliament – this is an issue to be solved through a joint platform of the government and the opposition, he said.

"The solution to the name dispute is not only up to us, but to Greece also. In theory, Greece can keep its veto on Macedonia's NATO membership for as long is it wants, but this is not good for Greece, either, as the alliance's member."

"Greece can keep asking for new conditions, but we will not accept a solution that would jeopardize our national identity," Grueski concluded.

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