Kosovo Says it Will Help Prevent Macedonia Unrest Escalation

Kosovo's Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said Tuesday his country would help prevent a regional escalation of the recent unrest in neighboring Macedonia that left 22 people dead and dozens of homes destroyed.

"Kosovo is interested in a tight cooperation between its police and the police of Macedonia in clearing up the circumstances that led to the unacceptable and unjustifiable situation," he told journalists during an official visit to Slovenia.

"We'll contribute to preventing any escalation, there is no reason for it to spill over and threaten the Balkans or Europe."

Thirty alleged gunmen have been charged with terror offenses after Saturday's bloody shootout in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo, close to the border with Kosovo.

The violence erupted at dawn when police moved in on the armed group. Eight officers were killed and 37 injured, while 14 bodies were found at the site.

The clashes were the worst in Macedonia for 14 years, and raised fears of fresh unrest similar to the country's 2001 ethnic conflict.

Eighteen of the 30 men charged were ethnic Albanians from neighboring Kosovo, a Macedonian prosecutor said earlier.

In response, the breakaway territory's top leaders condemned "any involvement" of Kosovans in the deadly shootings.

Ethnic Albanians make up around one quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million population.

The 2001 Macedonian conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels ended with an agreement providing more rights to the minority community. However, relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians remain strained.

Source: Agence France Presse

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