UNHCR seeks humanitarian access to FYR of Macedonia war victims
GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency said today it is seeking humanitarian access to areas affected by the war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
A spokesman said UNHCR's special envoy Eric Morris has been visiting troubled towns and villages over the past week as a first step toward aiding civilian victims and ensuring the return of refugees and displaced people as soon as possible.
Morris has met with ethnic Albanian and Macedonian Slavs and called on them to come to an agreement that will ensure peace and justice for all communities.
"Progress on return is a critical measure for building confidence," said spokesman Ron Redmond. "The longer the displacement, the greater the fear, mistrust and polarization among the ethnic communities."
On Monday, 309 people returned to FYROM from Kosovo, while more than 180 left FYROM for Kosovo.
Redmond said the fluctuating numbers of new arrivals and returnees over the past few days reflect continuing uncertainty over peace prospects in the country.
From Friday to Sunday, UNHCR Kosovo reported nearly 1,000 new arrivals. Most were from the Skopje area and said they left as a precautionary measure while awaiting the outcome of negotiations to end fighting that began in February.
About 62,000 refugees from FYROM remain in Kosovo, while 12,000 have returned.
On Monday, Morris visited the war-devastated village of Aracinovo just outside Skopje and was to travel to Lipkovo today.
On a previous visit to Aracinovo a week ago, Morris found the village nearly deserted. Some of the few remaining villagers told Morris that only some 60 elderly people were left in the area, out of a population of between 7,000 and 10,000 - 80 percent Albanian and the rest Macedonian Slav.