Macedonian President Calls for Calm After 22 Die in Gunfight

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Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov vowed to punish gunmen who killed eight policemen and wounded 37 more this weekend in the second such attack in less than a month.

Police killed fourteen militants and wounded dozens in gun battles in the town of Kumanovo that began on Saturday morning, the Interior Ministry said, adding that police prevented the “terrorists” from attacking state institutions. Three Kosovar paramilitary leaders surrendered, Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told a news conference on Sunday in the capital, Skopje.

“The perpetrators and all those involved in this terrorist act will pay dearly for what they tried to do to the Republic of Macedonia and its citizens,” Ivanov said in Skopje. “We won’t allow any escalation of tensions.”

Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic that borders Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece, fought an armed conflict with Kosovo Liberation Army insurgents in 2001. The militants sought more autonomy for ethnic Albanians, who make up a quarter of Macedonia’s 2 million people and live mostly near the former Serbian province where the group declared independence in 2008.

“We urge all involved parties and actors to collaborate in clarifying what has happened, who is in charge and what has happened, and act united on this issue,” European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in Riga. “This event cannot and should not distract from the very serious internal political situation, which we have urged the government and also the opposition party to start resolving.”

May Rally

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is facing mounting pressure to step down and a big opposition rally is due on May 17.

Ivanov met with the U.S. ambassador, the EU delegation chief, NATO and OSCE representatives in Skopje on Monday, to inform them about measures taken to keep the country stable, his press office said in e-mailed statement. In Serbia, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the country “has continuously worked for months to raise combat readiness of its police and army to respond to challenges of terrorism,” which may persist in the coming period, according to a Tanjug news agency report.

Last month, about 40 heavily armed men in fatigues bearing the insignia of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army disarmed and tied up four policeman at a northern Macedonian border checkpoint in a pre-dawn raid, the government said. The attackers told police they rejected the peace agreement that ended the 2001 insurgency.

Intentional Destabilization

Yields on Macedonia’s euro-denominated bonds maturing in 2021 rose three basis points to 3.863 percent by 3:49 p.m. in Skopje, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The dinar was almost unchanged at 61.5797 per euro.

Ivanov said the attackers were intent on destabilizing Macedonia. He urged the European Union to start accession talks that have been blocked since it became a candidate in 2005 because of a name dispute with Greece.

“I demand the international community, the EU and NATO to get involved with the greatest seriousness and unlock our Euro-Atlantic integration,” Ivanov said.

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