|Updated: 30-Aug-2002||NATO Press Releases|
(2002)100 30 Aug. 2002
The recent kidnapping of a group of citizens in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) is a deplorable act of violence that undermines the efforts of all those who are working for long-term stability in the country. Provocations must stop. I urge the perpetrators to release the victims immediately and unconditionally. I call on the population to remain calm and resist any calls for retaliation and appeal for restraint from the authorities.
The citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have on 15 September an historic opportunity to keep their country firmly on the path to European integration. I am confident that their democratic representatives will continue to take the right decisions to ensure a positive outcome by conducting free and fair elections.
However, the country's democratic future can only be firmly secured if agreements are respected in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation by all those who signed up to them. Agreements cannot be embraced when convenient and discarded when not. Voters should be convinced and persuaded by logical arguments and not the abuse of power. Intimidation and harassment, limitations to freedom of movement and roadblocks are not commensurate with the concept of free and fair elections.
A year ago, I congratulated the Parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for taking the historic decision to proceed with constitutional reforms, as set out in the Ohrid Agreement, to restore peace and stability to their country.
With that vote, the democratically-elected representatives of the people of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia brought the country back from the brink of bloody civil war and closer to the European family of nations. The constitutional changes established the basis for a new era of mutual trust between all communities and created the opportunity to build a peaceful, multi-ethnic democracy.
Since then the search for compromises on difficult and divisive issues has taken place through the right and legitimate channel, the country's democratic institutions. This has been a major achievement. The forthcoming Parliamentary elections, on 15 September, will be the next important step in this process.
Against this background, I strongly condemn the increase in violence in recent weeks. My thoughts in particular are with the families of the two policemen killed last week-end, to whom I offer my condolences. No political agenda can justify these criminal acts.