Albanian Daily News
Albanians in Macedonia to bridge the two countries

Feb 25, 2000

TIRANA - Premier Ilir Meta met here on Tuesday with the leader of the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, Arber Xhaferri, and highlighted the importance of the Albanian minority in the strengthening of relations between Albania and the FYROM, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

"The maturity of the Albanian political factors in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will affect the solution of problems of the Albanian population there," Meta said.

A statement from the Council of Ministers’ press office said that Meta "hailed the role of the (ethnic) Albanian political factors in the political stability of Macedonia and the maintenance and development of stable inter-ethnic relations there."

Meta and Xhaferri, chairman of the Democratic Party of Albanians in Macedonia, a ruling coalition party, discussed relations between Albania and Macedonia. Meta stressed the necessity to enhance cooperation between the two countries in fields of mutual interest, including the construction of a highway network connecting several countries in the region, Corridor VIII. The highway will cross the country west-east, from the port city of Durres to the Albanian-Macedonian border check-point of Qafe Thana.

The Prime Minister reiterated the readiness of the Albanian party to fulfill as soon as possible the agreement on the visa-free circulation across the borders, but he demanded that the Macedonian government show the same dedication to fulfil its commitments.

Albanians in Macedonia make up one third of the population in the former Yugoslav republic and most live in the western part of the country, close to the border with Albania.

Xhaferri emphasised the need for close cooperation between Albanian businesses on both sides of the border "as an important tool to improving relations between the two countries."

As the talks topic shifted towards Kosovo, and the still tense situation there, Premier Meta said that the ethnic Albanian politicians there should increase their support for the United Nations administration (UNMIK) and the multi-national peace-keeping force (KFOR).

"With regards to the Kosovo situation, the Prime Minister underlined once again the need for closer cooperation between the Kosovo (Albanian) political forces and the international factor acting in Kosovo, UNMIK and KFOR, to bring the life to normality," the press release said. "That would mean (helping create) a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo."

Xhaferri has met several times with Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci and established close contacts with other ethnic Albanian leaders in the war torn UN-administered province.

Meta and Xhaferri expressed their "total trust" in the international organisations in charge of Kosovo, and hailed their determination to repel any effort to divide Kosovo. They were referring to recent turmoil in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica, where ethnic Albanians fear that local Serbs want a partition of northern Kosovo. The UN administration there and other international organisations have rejected the possibility that such an idea may actually take place.

On the other hand Meta and Xhaferri issued an appeal to the Kosovo Albanians to be cool and not respond to provocations.

The two Albanian leaders "pledged to appeal to the Kosovo people and political forces to exert self-control and prudence, by denouncing and punishing extremist acts," the press release said.

Original article