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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Council Condemns Ethnic Albanian Attacks in Macedonia

UNITED NATIONS - The Security Council met in urgent session to condemn attacks by ethnic Albanian militants in Macedonia and to show support for efforts by NATO and Macedonia to better patrol the country's border with Kosovo.

But the council took no action Wednesday on a Macedonian request for the creation of a NATO-patrolled "ground safety zone" along the Kosovo-Macedonian border to prevent ethnic Albanian militants from crossing into Macedonia and supplying extremists there with weapons.

Clashes in recent days between the militants and Macedonian forces have left three Macedonian troops dead and sparked fears of new Balkan bloodshed. Some 800 refugees have left Macedonia for Kosovo.

In a statement adopted at the end of the emergency meeting requested by Macedonia, the council condemned the violence the Albanian militants, called for it to end, and urged political leaders in Macedonia and Kosovo to "isolate the forces behind the violent incidents."

Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgan Kerim had urged council members to consider his government's proposal to create a "ground safety zone" inside Kosovo in which NATO-led peacekeepers would patrol and control the length of the border. He said he would bring the same appeal to NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday.

He said he believed Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Ukraine and Bulgaria would be willing to send troops if the current force in Kosovo, known as KFOR, was unable to patrol the whole area.

"All eyes and hopes of the Macedonian population are now turned towards KFOR and measures they will undertake," Kerim told the council.

"It should be clear that at this time, we are not only endeavoring to protect the stability of our northen border, but also the values we share with the people of the countries you represent: peace, freedom, democracy in a multiethnic, multicultural country," he said.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson ruled out the creation of a ground safety zone, saying what was required was just beefed-up patrols.

Ethnic Albanian rebels in both Macedonia and southern Serbia are believed to be receiving help from Kosovo Albanian extremists who want independence for Kosovo and nearby regions with large ethnic Albanian populations.

Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of Russia, which sided with Yugoslavia during NATO's 1999 airstrike campaign to quash a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians, said the attacks by the militants showed they merely want to "achieve their nationalist ideas through measures of force."

"It is time for the international community to draw lessons from the sad experience of aiding and abetting separatists and the impulses of the Albanian extremists," Lavrov said. "They are calculating as before: giving rise to a disproportionate reaction and then supposedly NATO will protect them."

"However, we already see the signs today that everyone, both in NATO and in the Islamic world, have caught on to the provocators and are prepared to rebuff their activities which are doing colossal harm to the Balkans and are in violation of the basic interests of all Albanians living there," he said.