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Q&A: What the deal means for Macedonia

Walter Rogers
CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Walter Rogers  

SKOPJE, Macedonia (CNN) -- Ethnic Albanian and Macedonian leaders signed a peace deal on Monday designed to end six months of conflict. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Walter Rogers, who is in the Macedonian capital Skopje, spoke to CNN International's Jane Dutton about the agreement.

Q. Can the accord bring peace to Macedonia?

A. The peace agreement even according to its strongest supporters only represents an opportunity for peace. Hatred between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian Slavs has intensified during the last six months of guerilla insurgency.

The Macedonian government did declare a unilateral cease-fire on Sunday night, but that too was qualified. If fired upon, government forces were to fire back. Consequently there was some shelling overnight in villages not far from Skopje.

Even Macedonia's president, who supports the peace agreement, sees it as only as a chance for peace -- the alternative being another civil war in the Balkans. What makes that of concern to the outside world, however, is that the Balkans have been the cockpit for war in Europe for more than 150 years.

One military analyst said there were no easy choices for either the ethnic Albanians or the Macedonians, and he added that fighting could go on until one side or the other concluded that the price was simply too high.

Q. When will the rebels disarm?

A. The mere signing of an armistice is not inspiring enough confidence among the NATO countries to send in the promised 3,000 peacekeepers to disarm the ethnic Albanian guerrillas just yet.

NATO first insists there must be a total cease-fire that actually holds. Second, before committing forces to disarm the guerrillas, NATO insists there must be an amnesty negotiated with the ethnic Albanian guerrillas, which the Macedonian government currently calls terrorists.

At best, NATO forces would only be here 30 days, their sole mission would be to collect weapons that the guerrillas voluntarily turn in at collection points. Military analysts believe the guerrillas will turn in the old and broken guns and keep the better quality weapons.

Q. So what will the deal achieve?

A. It is being seen as another opportunity for peace, another opportunity for stability. As they used to say, jaw jaw jaw is better than war war war. So if they are talking there are hopes that some of the intensity of the fighting we have seen last weekend will be reduced.

But how long that will be reduced is highly conjectural, because the guerrillas have actually gained a considerable amount. The ethnic Albanian guerrillas have gained control over substantial portions of this country, particularly in the north, and they now control fairly large sections of Macedonia.

So before the conflict ends, one side or the other has to be convinced that it is no longer in their interest to continue fighting. I am not sure we have reached that point yet.

• Violence ahead of Macedonia deal
August 13, 2001

• Macedonian government

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