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FYR of Macedonia: UNHCR ready for improved security conditions

Briefing notes

FYR of Macedonia: UNHCR ready for improved security conditions

17 August 2001

UNHCR welcomes this week's positive developments in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), especially the signing of the peace agreement and the deployment today of an advance party of NATO troops, and the plans to deploy additional OSCE monitors. In the interests of the many displaced, UNHCR urges all sides to stick to the agreement and observe the cease-fire. UNHCR is ready to do more to help those who wish to return to their homes, as soon as the security conditions on the ground permit. UNHCR will use its long-standing expertise in working with divided communities in the Balkans to help in stabilisation of the situation through confidence-building measures and support for returnees. UNHCR's special envoy for the Balkans, Eric Morris, is in Vienna today for talks with senior OSCE officials to encourage a rapid deployment of a more substantial international monitoring presence, which UNHCR sees as critical both for peace implementation and for creating conditions for safe and sustainable returns.

UNHCR is alarmed about the number of persons who remain displaced within FYROM despite the signing of the agreement. More than 7,000 displaced persons have been registered by the [former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonian Red Cross during the last three days, which brings the total number of people displaced within FYROM to over 60,000.

As one example, more than 5,000 persons have relocated within the town of Tetovo during the last days. Another 195 persons have left their homes in Lubanci and Ljuboten close to Skopje, where heavy fighting took place during the weekend.

UNHCR's planned activities in support of return include emergency housing repairs, monitoring of return areas, confidence-building measures, issuing identity documents, and promoting dialogue between ethnic communities in mixed villages. UNHCR's mobile teams are already working in areas where the security situation improved slightly over the past 48 hours, such as Aracinovo near Skopje, and Kumanovo.

At the same time, UNHCR will continue to be cautious not to encourage return to areas where security assessments have not been carried out, and where conditions for safe return have not yet been established.