Macedonia unrest: ‘Warning to Skopje against new Turkish pipeline’

People light candles to commemorate policemen who were killed in a gun battle, during a memorial in Skopje, Macedonia, May 11, 2015. (Reuters/Marko Djurica)
Macedonia has become important to the US as it could become the only way for Russia’s proposed Turkish Stream pipeline to reach Central Europe, which Washington does not want, political analyst Srdja Trifkovic told RT.

Some thirty people have been charged with 'terrorism' over a deadly shoot-out in Macedonia at the weekend. A fierce battle erupted between police and an armed gang in the town of Kumanovo, in the north of Macedonia. The district is populated by ethnic Albanians who make up about a quarter of Macedonia's population. Albanians answered with protests outside the Macedonian Embassy in Tirana, accusing Skopje of using violence instead of talking when dealing with ethnic Albanians. The Macedonian authorities say the gunmen were plotting terror acts against government institutions.

RT:What are the main reasons for the current unrest in the Balkans?

Srdja Trifkovic: It is rather tricky because the Albanians do not react the way they acted or reacted over the past three days without encouragement from the outside. We’ve seen this 14 years ago, in 2001 when the Albanians were caught in the village of Aracinovo, and there were some American fighters with them.

READ MORE: Sniper fire, explosions: 8 Macedonian police dead after clashes in Albanian district

Macedonia or rather the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has become very important to the US recently because of Bulgaria’s refusal to accept the South Stream project. In the end the Bulgarians under EU pressure had to say “no.” And now if the Russian pipeline goes across Turkey to the Greek- Turkish border, the only way it can reach central Europe would be across Macedonia and then the old path as originally suggested through Serbia, Hungary into Austria, Slovenia, and Italy – and this is something the Americans don’t want.

I believe what we’ve seen in the recent days is a warning to the government in Skopje not to even think about hosting the new Turkish pipeline, the replacement for South Stream. I do believe that this is the political background to what is going on...

RT:The Macedonian authorities called the perpetrators of the unrest 'terrorists'. But there are many who disagree and say they're fighting for independence. How bad could the situation get?

ST: There is no limit with rebelling Albanians. We should bear in mind that the Skopje authorities, after the Albanian rebellion in 2001, effectively turned the country into a bi-national condominium. The Albanian party is a permanent member of the ruling coalition. One really has to wonder what else they could possibly want. This is primarily instigated from Kosovo, not from Albania, and it is in Kosovo that you have former KLA fighters [Kosovo Liberation Army] with lots of experience in staging ambushes and terrorist attacks. After all, they openly propagate the notion of a Greater Albania that will include not only Kosovo, but also Western Macedonia, and parts of the Epirus [region] in Greece and southern Montenegro.

What I believe is the limit for the escalation is the announcement by the Skopje government that there will be no Russian pipeline going across Macedonian territory from Greece into Serbia. Of course that will not be in the form of a public announcement. But I believe [that] [Nikola] Gruevski, the Macedonian Prime Minister, has been too hesitant to state pointblank that this project will not play.

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