Saturday, May 16, 2015

US special forces kill senior ISIS commander in Syria raid


Reuters/Wathiq Khuzaie
Reuters/Wathiq Khuzaie

US special operations forces have conducted a military operation in eastern Syria, targeting a senior Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) commander and his wife, the US defense secretary has announced. The terrorist leader was killed in the raid.
Abu Sayyaf, a senior Islamic State leader, was killed by US forces, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday, adding the terrorist was involved in the group's military operations, as well as helping to direct its "illicit oil, gas and financial operations."
"During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged US forces," National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.

17 May 1914 - 2015, The Protocol of Corfu

Protocol of Corfu
Signed 17 May 1914
Location Corfu, Greece
Signatories Albania Principality of Albania
Flag of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus.svg Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus
The Protocol of Corfu (Greek: Πρωτόκολλο της Κέρκυρας, Albanian: Protokolli i Korfuzit), signed on May 17, 1914, was an agreement between the representatives of the Albanian Government and the Provisional Government of Northern Epirus, which officially recognized the area of Northern Epirus as an autonomous self-governing region under the sovereignty of the prince of the newly established Principality of Albania.[1] The agreement granted the Greeks of the districts of Korytsa and Argyrokastro, which form Northern Epirus, wider religious, educational, cultural and political autonomy, inside the borders of the Albanian state.
After the end of the Balkan Wars (1912–1913), the subsequent peace treaties ceded the region to Albania. This turn of events catalyzed an uprising among the local Greeks, which led to the Northern Epirote Declaration of Independence, on February 28, 1914. The International Commission of Control, an organization responsible for securing peace and stability in the region, eventually intervened and the Protocol of Corfu was signed on May 17, 1914. However the protocol’s terms were never implemented because of the politically unstable situation in Albania following the outbreak of World War I, and it was eventually annulled in 1921 during the Conference of Ambassadors

Albanian lawmakers reject Erdoğan’s call to close Turkish schools

Albanian lawmakers reject Erdoğan’s call to close Turkish schools
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks to students during his visit to a Turkish school in the Albanian city of Korca, in this Dec. 20, 2014 file photo. (Photo: Cihan)
May 15, 2015, Friday/ 18:19:42/ TODAY'S ZAMAN / ISTANBUL

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's call for the closure of Turkish schools in Albania unleashed a swirl of debate in the Albanian political and media landscape, leading to intensified pressure on the government to clarify its position and Education Minister Lindita Nikolla saying that the government has already shut down a number of schools regarded as unfit according to criteria set in a recent education reform.
There are no Turkish schools among the 13 schools that have been closed in Albania since last year.

Once a champion at promoting more Turkish schools abroad, personally inaugurating some, including in Albania, Erdoğan has now become an avowed enemy of these schools established by non-governmental organizations and volunteers from Turkey.
While in Tirana as part of an official visit to the small Balkan country on Wednesday, Erdoğan called on Albanian authorities to close Turkish schools there, some of which were opened during the 1990s at a time of political turbulence and instability in the country that barely avoided a civil war. Erdoğan's current unyielding war against Turkish schools in Albania contradicts his previous attitude. It was Erdoğan who inaugurated one of the schools, Turgut Özal College's elementary school, on Feb. 17, 2005, during an official trip when he was prime minister of Turkey.
Not only did Erdoğan endorse the opening of schools in Albania by Turkish civil society, but other Turkish officials such as then-President Abdullah Gül and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek also gave their full blessing to such efforts. Turkish officials have seen these schools as bridges with Albania that could facilitate strong ties with the Balkan country.
Gül attended the groundbreaking ceremony of Epoka University in Tirana in 2009, while Çiçek visited major Turkish schools in the country in 2012. Both leading figures expressed their support for the schools, which they regarded as basis for strong cultural bonds between Turkey and Albania. What is more striking is the fact that the presidential website of Turkey still features Gül's landmark attendance at the ceremony with dozens of photos detailing scenes from his 2009 visit.
"Turkish educational institutions in Albania are good examples of fraternity" reads a title on the website and delves into details of Gül's visit. "Drawing attention to the historic relations between Turkey and Albania, President Gül declared in his speech that their mutual trust would continue and said he was proud to see the peoples of the two countries contributing to the solidarity of both states, adding: “These schools are the best gift that Turkish businessmen have given to Albania,” a bulletin prepared by the press office of the presidency reported on the website.
Against this backdrop, Erdoğan's current efforts to label schools as having been formed by a terrorist organization, a reference to the Hizmet movement -- a faith-based movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen that has built hundreds of schools across the world to promote education with the aim of facilitating inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue -- created uneasiness and stirred up a backlash from Albanian politicians.
Jarred by Erdoğan's call, several Albanian lawmakers dismissed Erdoğan's portrayal of the schools as being created by a terrorist organization, and have said that the schools provide a high quality education that is essential for the development of the country.
Ben Blushi, a deputy from the ruling the Socialist Party of Albania (PS), which came to power in 2013, speaking in a parliamentary session on Thursday, called on the government to reject Erdoğan's request.
"Albania is not a province of Turkey," Blushi said, and stressed that internationally recognized terrorist organizations are only determined by UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. "No country's president can ask for such a thing [labeling a civil society movement a terrorist organization] while on his visit to another country."
To Blushi, Erdoğan asked for a gift from Albanian authorities in return for the construction of the Namazgah Mosque in Tirana. "I have not seen a terrorist organization that killed anybody so far. I have never seen the Gülen [Hizmet] movement kill somebody. Those schools that Erdoğan seeks to close down have contributed to education at thousands of schools in Albania," he said.
Former Albanian Economy Minister Arben Malaj also joined the recent discussion through a social media account, calling for a clarification from the Albanian president about Erdoğan's request. Malaj emphasized that the Hizmet movement is not on the UN's list of terrorist groups and stressed that shutting down the Turkish schools in Albania in return for investment by Erdoğan's administration means the export of Turkey's domestic problems to Albania. The Turkish economic presence in Albania could be worth something, but Turkey cannot be a model for Albanians on the democracy front, Malaj argued.
Ilir Kulla, who acted as an advisor to the Albanian president from 2007 to 2010, has said that the Turkish schools have been operating in Albania for 25 years and have proven their quality.
"There is a need to be realistic. The Albanian state has to show respect for the law. These schools have been operating for 25 years in the field of education, and their quality and the quality of their students is extremely high. These institutions pay their taxes to the state and provide education in line with the laws," he said in remarks to Today's Zaman on Friday, in open rejection of Erdoğan's characterization of the schools. "We respect Turkey and Erdoğan, but we have no reason to close these schools."
Nothing is more telling than Erdoğan's recent call to lawmakers of the Balkan country in revealing the scale of his continuing crackdown on civil society movements that refuse to toe the line with the ruling party's ideological orientation or the government's political identity.
The Turkish president has extended an unflinching crackdown on the Hizmet movement beyond the borders of his country and launched a relentless campaign to close any institution, association or school, he considers to be linked with the Hizmet movement, wherever they might be located, be they in Europe, Africa, or Asia.
Erdoğan accuses the Hizmet movement of orchestrating a corruption investigation of the government during his premiership in late 2013, a claim which has been strictly rejected by both Gülen and the movement itself. Despite relentless tirades, Erdoğan has so far failed to back his claims with any substantial evidence.

Macedonia divided: Corruption, armed rebellion splits nation

(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski gestures, while attending a session in the parliament after resignation of two ministers from Prime Minister's cabinet and a senior state security official, on Wednesday, May, May 13...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski gestures, while attending a session in the parliament after resignation of two ministers from Prime Minister's cabinet and a senior state security official, on Wednesday, May, May 13...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, bottom, addresses the lawmakers in presence of the speaker Trajko Veljanovski, top, during a session in the parliament after resignation of two ministers from Prime Minister's cabin...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, bottom, addresses the lawmakers in presence of the speaker Trajko Veljanovski, top, during a session in the parliament after resignation of two ministers from Prime Minister's cabin...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). People carrying national flags and small banners reading “Thank you heroes” sing the national anthem in front of a police station in Skopje, Tuesday, May 12, 2015.  Some hundreds of people marched peacefully in Skopje on Tue...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). People carrying national flags and small banners reading “Thank you heroes” sing the national anthem in front of a police station in Skopje, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Some hundreds of people marched peacefully in Skopje on Tue...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). People march through a street carrying national flags and small banners reading “Thank you heroes” in Skopje, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Hundreds of people marched peacefully in Skopje on Tuesday, honoring 8 police officers who ...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski). People march through a street carrying national flags and small banners reading “Thank you heroes” in Skopje, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Hundreds of people marched peacefully in Skopje on Tuesday, honoring 8 police officers who ...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski, FILE). FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, May 5, 2015, a woman lifts her hands up in front of the police during a protest in front of the Government building in Skopje Macedonia. Macedonia's opposition leader has accuse...
(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski, FILE). FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, May 5, 2015, a woman lifts her hands up in front of the police during a protest in front of the Government building in Skopje Macedonia. Macedonia's opposition leader has accuse...
Associated Press SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonia's short history of independence has been a troubled one - and its political turmoil appears to be getting worse.
The government in this Balkan nation of about 2 million people is reeling from a massive wiretap scandal and a gunbattle between police and ethnic Albanian gunmen that left 18 dead in a border town a week ago. In a region with a long and bloody history of ethnic conflicts and political instability, the developments have caused consternation both domestically and abroad.
Months of accusations between rival politicians locked in a power struggle have plunged the country into one of its deepest political crises since Macedonia gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Potential trouble looms again on Sunday, when the opposition plans an anti-government rally billed as the largest Macedonia has ever seen in the capital, Skopje. The protests are supposed to continue for days, and a rival pro-government protest has been called for Monday.
Sunday's opposition rally "will be a historic day of reckoning for the current government of Macedonia," said Nikola Dimitrov, a former national security adviser. "The increasingly authoritarian regime of (Prime Minister Nikola) Gruevski will face a crowd of citizens craving freedom, democracy, rule of law and accountability."
Dimitrov, now a fellow at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, predicted that "in an all-or-nothing situation, (the government) will be ready to pay a very high price to survive."
At the heart of the crisis is a massive cache of wiretapped conversations that the head of the opposition Social Democrats, Zoran Zaev, has been releasing since January. Zaev claims that Gruevski, in power for nearly a decade, was behind the mass wiretapping of more than 20,000 Macedonians, including ministers, politicians, police, journalists, judges, foreign ambassadors and religious leaders.
Those conversations, which Zaev said were leaked to him by "patriots" in the domestic intelligence service, purport to reveal corruption at the highest levels of government, including the mismanagement of funds, spurious criminal prosecutions of opponents and even attempted cover-ups of killings. He has demanded that Gruevski resign and new elections be held.
Opposition parties have been boycotting parliament for nearly a year since accusing the governing coalition of fraud in the April 2014 election.
Gruevski, who has won successive elections since 2006, angrily rejects the accusations. He accuses Zaev of participating in a coup plot backed by unnamed foreign spy agencies seeking to overthrow his conservative government.
Some Macedonians are worried.
"I am afraid that Macedonia could enter into civic conflict with unpredictable consequences," said Julijana Petrovska, a 64-year-old retired economist. "People are so stubborn ... and divided that things could get out of control easily."
But others blame the opposition for creating instability.
Zaev "started to publish recordings he got from foreign spies and now he wants to seize power illegally, without elections," said Jovan, a 23-year-old law student who would only give his first name for fear of reprisals. "He is the one the most responsible for this crisis."
The government has come under growing criticism from the West, including from the 28-nation European Union, which Macedonia hopes to join one day. EU officials have expressed concern over the harassment of the press and apparent meddling in court cases in Macedonia, among other issues.
The ambassadors of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and the EU met Gruevski recently and issued a strongly worded statement saying the government "has not made progress toward accounting for many allegations of government wrongdoing" arising from the wiretap disclosures.
"Continued inaction" will undermine the country's efforts to join the EU and NATO, they said.
The government says it's doing what it can. On Thursday, Gruevski attended a Western ambassador-brokered meeting with Zaev and the heads of two ethnic Albanian parties in the first direct talks since the political crisis began in January. The four agreed to meet again Monday and to ensure that future demonstrations are peaceful.
The interior and transport ministers, Gordana Jankuloska and Mile Janakieski, and top intelligence chief Saso Mijalkov - a relative of Gruevski - resigned a few days ago, saying they did so to calm the situation. The three were the voices most heard on the recordings.
Meanwhile, the ghost of Macedonia's brief 2001 armed conflict between government forces and the country's ethnic Albanian minority, which fought for greater rights, hovers over the country once more.
Clashes in the border town of Kumanovo earlier this month killed 10 gunmen and eight police and wounded 37 police. Some gunmen wore insignia used by ethnic Albanian rebels during their insurgencies in Serbia and Macedonia in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It is still unclear how the fighting in Kumanovo began. The government said police forces mounted an operation after tracking an armed group of about 50 men to a house there. Last month Macedonian police said a smaller group attacked a border watchtower, briefly taking two Macedonian border guards hostage before releasing them unharmed.
Political analyst Saso Ordanovski said he thinks the gunmen were mercenaries.
"Somebody paid them to draw attention away from what is going on at the moment in the country," Ordanovski said. Gruevski, he argued, "is the one who benefits the most from the incident ... He is facing the growing revolt and demands from abroad that he must do something."
Ali Ahmeti, who heads the ethnic Albanian junior government coalition partner, said he had been in contact with the gunmen but it was unclear what their motives were. He said they had asked for his help in brokering their surrender. Saying that most ethnic Albanians do not back an insurgency, Ahmet called for an international investigation into the clashes.
Dimitrov, the former security adviser, said there was only one way to resolve the crisis.
"Regardless of how much time it will take, and how difficult it will be, there can only be one sustainable outcome: an interim government to clean up the system, introduce robust checks and balances, promote justice, and prepare for free and fair elections," he said.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Third Balkan War in the making: Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians and Macedonians to unite against the "Greater Albania"?

NOVI balkanski rat - Srbija, Grčka, Bugarska, Makedonija

In the report, analysts of the CIA stated that if the US continues to provide unconditional support to Albanians and the EU to keep silent about the revival of "Greater Albania", it could very easily lead to a mess in the Balkans, which would make this region into a new Middle East
NOVI balkanski rat - Srbija, Grčka, Bugarska, Makedonija

At the conclusion of the latest report of the CIA about the situation in our region, it says that  if the US, following the terrorist attacks in Macedonia continues to provide unconditional support to Albanians, and if the EU continues to remain silent and passes over the revival of “Greater Albania”, it will lead to the formation of the “Orthodox Union” of Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia, which could very easily lead to a “third Balkan war”!
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Because of these allegations, CIA analysts warn the US authorities to have a “balanced approach towards the Balkans,” writes Informer.

The situation is worse: Albania and Kosovo openly threaten Macedonia

- US analysts write that the Balkan countries whose territories are the project of “Greater Albania” will not sit idly and quietly and watch  Albanians seize territory, and they are convinced that in the event of an emergency Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians and Macedonians will join forces in the fight against the Albanians. In this case, Balkan could become the next Middle East, and that is in no one’s interest, not even the United States – said a greatly informed diplomatic source of this newspaper.

Why is Western media silent about the attacks in Macedonia? Nobody mentions that the war was initiated by SHQIPTAR terrorists!

Also, analysts estimate that the attitude towards the Balkan countries is extremely important in determining the relationship between the US and Russia.

- They write that if the US and the EU, continue with their present pro-Albanian policy, all Orthodox people will turn against them. Pushing them into the arms of the Russians. At one point, the authors of the report estimate that if such a scenario were to happen, Bulgaria and Greece could become “hard-Russian geopolitical strongholds”, as Serbia, according their impression, already is.


Analyst Djordje Vukadinovic pointed out that the association is a logical reaction to the attempt to create a “Greater Albania”.

- If the alliance were to happen, I do not believe that the United States would sit quietly and watch because it is clear that Albanians are their favorites. Serbia had a similar alliance before the First World War,  when they clashed with Turkey.

Dacic: We back all EU decisions except sanctions on Russia

However, on the other hand, Cedomir Antic of the Progressive Club emphasizes that the idea of ​​merging the Balkans exists for over more than a decade.

- Even if the idea were initiated, the United States would prevent it from the start. However, such an alliance should be there because it would survive even if the EU were to fail.

The EU recognizes Kosovo’s independence: This decision of Europe, SERBIA WILL NEVER ACCEPT!

However, former Ambassador Dusan Spasojevic believes it would be impossible to make an alliance with countries that have recognized Kosovo’s independence.

– It is illogical to put others’ interests before our own. It should be reminded that Macedonia was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo. Serbia needs to follow events in that country, but as said by Prime Minister Vucic, we must not interfere with the internal affairs of a state. Only Greece and Romania can be our true allies.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Macedonia Opposition Says Preparing Mass Protest in Skopje on Sunday

Supporters of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) with party symbols

© AP Photo/ Boris Grdanoski

The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), the largest opposition party in the country, will demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski at a mass protest in the capital Skopje on Sunday, the party’s leader Zoran Zaev said Friday.
BELGRAD, May 15 (Sputnik) — According to Zaev, Gruevski is responsible for the crisis in the country.

He added that the protest would be peaceful, but continue until the government’s resignation. About 70,000 people will join in the rally, he said.
"All members of our party were instructed to record on camera a potential police violence, or other facts that could lead to clashes on Sunday during the protests, to once again demonstrate the truth about the violence of the authorities."
Zaev noted that the SDSM is in talks with Albanian parties about their participation in the Sunday protest.
Macedonia currently undergoes a period of serious political instability. On May 6, at least 40 people, including 38 police officers, were injured during anti-government protests in Skopje.
The violent political protests began in the capital after Zaev accused the prime minister of concealing the circumstances surrounding the death of 22-year-old Martin Neskovski in June 2011.
Neskovski was beaten to death by a bodyguard of Gruevski’s at a meeting of the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), according to Zaev.
The opposition leader said he has a record of the conversation between Gruevski and Minister of Internal Affairs Gordana Jankulovska, which shows the two planned to cover up the killer’s identity. Jankulovska denied the accusations and stated that the recording was a fake.

"The idea of ​​Great Albania will lead to a third Balkan war"


If the United States, continue to give its full support to the Albanians for the creation of 'Greater Albania', could lead to unrest in the Balkans and the region to become a new Middle East. It mentions the Serbian 'Telegraph' citing, as required, report of the CIA. 

The report says the effort to create 'Greater Albania' will lead to a new form Balkan union or alliance of Orthodox peoples, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Skopje and this alliance could easily result in a third Balkan war.

For this reason, analysts of CIA, have warned the US authorities for a balanced approach to the Balkans.

An unnamed diplomat said that CIA analysts have pointed out that the Balkan countries will not sit with crossed hands with the possibility of Albania beyond its borders, seeing that Albanians steal their lands, regardless of whom supported.

They also believe that the position in the Balkans is also important because of the influence of Russia.

Another publication from the same source says that Russia will not allow any violation of Serbia's borders.

Macedonia Struggles for Identity as Political Violence Grows

People light candles in front of the riot policemen to commemorate policemen who were killed after fighting between Macedonian police and an armed group in the town of Kumanovo , in Skopje on May 11, 2015

(updated 21:03 15.05.2015) Get short URL
Macedonia's opposition pledges more protests amid growing violence and attacks on police officers, as the country is forced to decide between a national identity and EU/NATO integration.
Although the emerging ethnic and political conflict has been shown as one of a struggle for democracy and against corruption, the issue of ethnic nationalism and European integration which is the predominant topic of anti-government discourse in the country has been overlooked.
Macedonia's ethnic divide between Albanians and Macedonians came to a head on May 9, when an attack by Albanian gunmen in the town of Kumanovo left at least 18 people dead. A Macedonian opposition member alleged that the attack was faked, and that the government had attacked itself.
Violent opposition protests in the country's capital on May 6 injured 38 police officers and at least two protesters. The International Crisis Group, a body often cited by Macedonian opposition organizations, suggested a path toward European integration in Macedonia which would involve decentralization of the state and resolving the naming dispute with Greece by renaming the country to something akin to "the Republic of North Macedonia."
Northern Macedonia is also a region of Macedonia's neighbor Bulgaria, which does not officially recognize the Macedonian people as a separate ethnic group from Bulgarians.
The conflict has been predominantly shown as one between an authoritarian government and a democratic opposition in Western media and political discourse.
"I think we've got to be careful about this idea that this is necessarily an ethnic problem. What we have essentially in Macedonia is a political problem at the moment," Dr. James Ker-Lindsay, a researcher in Balkan studies at the London School of Economics told Sputnik on Tuesday.
Opposition Forces
Although the Macedonian opposition talks of democracy and anti-corruption campaigns, its actual political discourse, such as in the prominent Societas Civilis group which has received US government funding, focuses primarily on issues of ethnicity and nationalism. Particular emphasis is given to the study of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ethnic groups live in a separated country which is on track to EU and NATO membership.
If there is any difference with the situation in Ukraine's Russian minority, it is that US-sponsored interests favor the recognition of the Albanian minority in Macedonia. Unlike Russia, Albania is a US ally and NATO member. The concept of "Greater Albania," an expansion of the Albanian state into areas of other countries where ethnic Albanians live has also become more prominent.
"The concept of Greater Albania is once again relevant but it won't see any progress without the help of the North Atlantic bloc," Balkan affair expert Duan Prorokovic told Sputnik on Tuesday.
The organized faction of the Macedonian opposition, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), is the successor to Macedonia's communist-era League of Communists of Macedonia. The SDSM now supports the idea of "Macedonia as full-fledged member of NATO and EU" according to the party's official website.

Government Reaction The Macedonian government rejected the movement toward European integration in recent years, which involves not only changing the country's name, but also issues of ethnic Albanian representation in the government
The move coincided with a rise in USAID grants such as the $4.8 million Civil Society Project, which trained over 1,000 young people in the use of social media and activism and mobilized 22 "civil society organizations."
Corruption allegations have been circulated against both the government and the opposition. A video emerged on Wednesday, in which opposition head Zoran Zaev apparently demands a 100,000 euro ($114,000) bribe from a mayor.
Bulgaria's rejection of the South Stream pipeline in 2014 led Macedonia to consider joining the alternate route, which would grant the country both accessible natural gas and a revenue source through transit agreements. The negotiations coincided with a rise in protests and armed attacks against police officers.
Unforeseen Consequences
"These events in Macedonia are developing on the backdrop of the Macedonian authorities’ refusal to join the sanctions policy against Russia, as well as on the backdrop of its active support that Skopje showed in regard to the planned construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, which many in Brussels and those overseas are against," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
After the attacks, the Macedonian government held talks with both Macedonian and Albanian opposition groups. The political leaders agreed to continue dialogue and avoid further violence, although opposition head Zoran Zaev still demands that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski steps down. New opposition protests are scheduled for Sunday as the country continues to recover from armed violence.

Tirana seeks international probe into Kumanovo events

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati has spoken in favor of an international investigation into the events in Kumanovo.
Source: Tanjug
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Eight Macedonian police officers and 14 ethnic Albanian terrorists died in clashes in the northern Macedonian town

last week.

Speaking during a NATO ministerial meeting, Bushati stressed that the Ohrid Agreement and its implementation represent "the basis for the democratic stability and Euro-Atlantic future of Macedonia."

Any further escalation "does not go in favor of the democratic stability and prosperity of Macedonia," he said.

Bushati added that "the language of hatred and extremism" should be abandoned, while "democratic rights in Macedonia should be respected."

Greater Albania" ambition setback for Balkans - president

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the response of Brussels to "the developments in the Balkans" has been "shy."
Source: B92, Beta
During his meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic on Friday, the Russian minister said that "in the recent past, nobody thought it would come to events like those recently in Kumanovo."

He was referring to last week's clashes that left eight Macedonian police officers and 14 ethnic Albanian terrorists dead.

"Our cooperation is very good, I spoke to Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic about Serbia's presidency of the OSCE, and OSCE's activities in Ukraine and the Balkans. We are concerned about the growing tendency of terrorism in the Balkans, it is of principled importance that our partners from Europe, especially from the EU do not neglect these problems. There is the risk of facing new misfortunes... 20 years ago no one could imagine that the situation would flare up and threaten to explode," said Lavrov.

Lavrov also commented on the participation of Serbian soldiers in Russia's Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9, that was also attended by Nikolic, to say it demonstrated "our joint determination not to allow catastrophes to repeat themselves."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin was happy about your arrival to Moscow and the efforts to increase the importance of our historic friendship," Lavrov stressed.

Earlier in the day, he met with Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic and during a joint press conference pointed out to the "inflammatory statements by Albanian officials":

"I expressed our concern over the increased talk about the so-called Greater Albania. This is the path towards open confrontation in the Balkans, and I do not think that any politician should speak about it and call for the creation of a Greater Albania. We are also concerned about Macedonia and the fact that these could be expressions of well-prepared terrorist ambitions. We are concerned about Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Islamic State was already active in the Balkans, I am sure that Brussels sees it, but admits that it knows what is going on in the Balkansshyly."

During his meeting with Lavrov, Tomislav Nikolic said that the Balkans is experiencing a setback "of several years" due to the desire of Kosovo and Albania to create a unified Albanian state.

Nikolic told his guest that Serbia finds "immensely important" the support it is given by Russia in the UN Security Council when it comes to Kosovo.

"Your stance in the Security Council is very clear and we are grateful for that," Nikolic said.

The president added that Serbia and Russia are "close exactly where the hot spots are."

"The Balkans - after several years when Serbia made efforts for it to be an oasis of peace - is being set back several years and all that is the consequence of the so-called independent state of Kosovo and its desire, and the desire of Albania, to create a Greater Albania state that would grab the borders of four surrounding countries," he said.

Lavrov noted that Russia was worried about the terrorist tendencies in the Balkans and added this should not be neglected because of risk of new tragedies.

He said that Serbia and Russia "should make concerted efforts to prevent a new redrawing of borders." Lavrov praised the Serbian chairmanship of the OSCE "for its balanced approach."

Nikolic described economic cooperation between the two countries as "exceptional" and said he was sorry to learn that the South Stream project was abandoned, because, as he said, "Serbia fears what will happen in 2018" when Russia stops shipping gas via Ukraine.

Lavrov noted that Serbia increased exports of food products to Russia and added that the two countries should strengthen cooperation in investment, while Russia's current investments reach some USD 4 billion. Russian businesspeople want to take part in the privatizations, he said.

Noting his country's "high marks" for Serbian soldiers' participation in the Victory Day parade - "aware that it happened in the context of attempts to reduce the importance of this holiday" - Lavrov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin "would be happy to again talk to Serbia's president in Moscow."

Fugitive UCK wants "Albanian state within Macedonia"

A terrorist who escaped from the Macedonian police custody after last week's deadly clashes in Kumanovo, says the goal is to "create a state."
Source: Tanjug
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Albanian language website Albeu is reporting that Osmani denied that the terrorist group had any financial goals.

According to him, it consisted of "more than 2,000 fighters."

Osmani also said he and other captured terrorists "did not surrender because they ran out of ammunition," but because "one of their friends spoke to someone on the phone and was told there were also OSCE representatives in the Divo settlement (in Kumanovo)."

Thus, Osmani revealed, they thought "the OSCE, not the Macedonian police, would take them over."

"Had we known, we wouldn't have surrendered, we would have fought until we were all dead," he said.

Osmani also told the broadcaster that he was "forced to show where weapons from Goshince were hidden" after his arrest, and that this was where he managed to escape.

The Macedonian police said late on Thursday they were "intensively searching" for the fugitive.

Russian, Chinese Warships Enter Mediterranean to Hold Joint Naval Drills

The first Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the Mediterranean will take place between May 17 and May 21.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A group of Russian and Chinese warships have left the Black Sea and entered the Aegean Sea to hold their first ever joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday. The first Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the Mediterranean will take place between May 17 and May 21. The exercises will involve around 10 ships from both countries.

Albania to use drones to track criminal activities

Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri and State Police Chief Haki Cako announced that Albanian police will use drones to capture fugitives and monitor illegal activities, media reported.
The move was aimed at boosting police operation efficiency and reducing risks of police officers, they added.
A demonstration of drone operation was held to detect overspeeding on the highways, Xinhua news agency reported.
The drones can fly for two hours.

Kammenos: Greece to seek other means of funding, if talks fail

First entry: 15 May 2015
Kammenos: Greece to seek other means of funding, if talks fail
Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said that Greece will seek other means for funding if negotiations with its lenders are not successful.
Speaking at an Economist conference in Athens, Kammenos said that if "lenders want to smother Greece and to overthrow the  government which is not liked Germany, Greece is left with no option other than to seek other sources of funding."
He also stressed that discussions on the sale of the Port of Piraeus with Chinese Cosco are at an "advanced stage” and he revealed that he will propose the creation of a new NATO air base in the Aegean.

Lavrov: Russia's position on Kosovo unchanging

The attempt of those who orchestrated the separation of Kosovo without a referendum to doubt the expression of the will of the citizens of Crimea is "absurd."
Source: Beta, Tanjug
"Russia's position on the Kosovo issue is absolutely clear and unchanging: it is only possible to regulate this problem on the basis of international law and within the framework set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1244."

"As for Belgrade's efforts in this direction - we find those decisions that will satisfy Serbia acceptable. For our part, we are ready to continue to provide the necessary support to our Serbian partners," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

The minister also said he was satisfied with the development of Russo-Serbian trade and economic ties.

"Trade exchange is rising, its infrastructure is improving," said Lavrov, adding that among the examples of successful investment and modernization are the company Serbian Petroleum Industry (NIS) and the repair works on Serbian railways.

He pointed out that Russia is "counting on the dialogue between the two countries on energy to be consistently expanded, including the delivery of Russian gas."

Lavrov arrived late on Thursday and was welcomed at the airport by his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic.

Addressing reporters at Belgrade's Nikola Tesla International, he "expressed support for Serbia's OSCE chairmanship and welcomed the way Serbian officials marked the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II."

"We highly value the participation of Serbian President Nikolic at the ceremony in Moscow and that of Serbia's military unit at the Victory Parade. We know that this anniversary was celebrated solemnly and emotionally in Belgrade, with Prime Minister Vucic taking part. In light of these events, I believe we will quickly achieve certain agreements concerning support for Serbia's OSCE presidency," Lavrov told journalists at the Belgrade airport on Thursday evening.

"One of the main tasks is to promote a document that confirms our commitment to peace, cooperation and prosperity on the whole European continent," Lavrov stressed.

"I am confident that, in what is not an easy situation on our continent, the (OSCE) chairmanship of Serbia and of Ivica Dacic personally is a guarantee for reaching balanced and well assessed decisions," he said.

Greek Archbishop Worships Holy Relics, Criticizes SYRIZA Parliamentary Representative

News from Greece

by Philip Chrysopoulos - May 14, 2015

iero6Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens went to worship the holy relics of Saint Barbara at the church bearing the same name in Egaleo, Athens, where he criticized SYRIZA parliamentary representative Nikos Filis for his comments on the separation of church and state in Greece.

The Archbishop honored the reliquary on Thursday along with hundreds of Greek Orthodox faithful who had formed endless lines.

The arrival of the reliquary that was received with the honors reserved for heads of state generated a controversy in Greek parliament. Filis said that worshipping the relics is idolatry, that there is a holy relics “trade” going on and that the time is ripe for separation of church and state.

When asked to comment on Filis’ statements about the separation of church and state, the Archbishop poignantly said that, “Those who think such thoughts will regret it.”

The holy relics will be transferred to the Saint Savvas Oncology Hospital on Friday so they can be worshiped by the ill and their families. Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis, who was scheduled to be the state official present, cancelled his appearance because he had to be in Geneva for a World Health Organization conference.

Kouroublis had received criticism from within the government and the opposition for his scheduled appearance at the oncology hospital.
- See more at:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

After Serbia, Bulgaria Sends Troops to Border With Macedonia Amid Deadly Clashes

People are evacuated with an armored vehicle near a police checkpoint in Kumanovo, Macedonia, May 9, 2015

© REUTERS/ Ognen Teofilovski
The recent terrorist attack in the city of Kumanovo has prompted Bulgaria to send military troops to its border with Macedonia in order to assist the Border Police in stopping a possible influx of refugees into the country.
Bulgaria has sent its soldiers to the border with Macedonia after the terrorist attack in the city of Kumanovo that claimed the lives of 14 gunmen and eight police officers.
"The army is at the border, working on its points, in case the situation in Macedonia worsens," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told parliament on Wednesday.

"We are following the events in Macedonia with concern. There are no killed Bulgarian citizens. Apart from the declaration and the position of the Foreign Ministry, yesterday there was a meeting of the Security Council," adding that May 17 would be a key date in Macedonia because a preplanned public protest rally would be held on that day. Bulgaria's Defense Ministry has rushed to clarify the statement of the Prime Minister, saying in response to questions from the local media that the military have been sent in order to stop a possible influx of refugees and highlighting that the move did mean a full-scale deployment of armed units and military combat weaponry.

A man reacts next to a burnt out vehicle in Kumanovo, Macedonia
Macedonian Conflict: The Pot of Arab Spring Boils Over the Balkans?
Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Nenchev underscored that the tragic incident in Macedonia does not pose a direct threat to Bulgaria. "At this stage there is no direct threat to Bulgaria resulting from the latest events in Macedonia. I get information from the Military Information Service. If necessary, we are ready to interact and provide full cooperation in guarding the Bulgarian border," he said in an official statement on Wednesday.
However, the Bulgarian authorities are expressing concerns regarding turmoil and a possible humanitarian crisis in Macedonia, a country where the Albanian ethnic minority comprises more than 30 percent of the population.

The peace in Macedonia has been hanging in the balance since 2001 when an accord between the Slavic population and the Albanian minority was concluded. Bulgarians have always considered Macedonia a fraternal nation and their country has expressed its deep concerns regarding the ongoing crisis.
Bulgaria's opposition parties, particularly ABC, the nationalist Patriotic Front, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, have called upon the EU to carry out effective measures to stop the ethnic conflict, confirm the enlargement policy of the European Union and consider concrete prospects for Macedonia's European integration.
However, Greece's decision to block the EU talks on Macedonia's accession remains a stumbling block in the way of Macedonia's European future. Athens has demanded that Macedonia should change its name, which coincides with the name of a northern Greek province.

Serbia can count on Russia's "full support" over Kosovo

MOSCOW -- Sergei Lavrov, who will be in Belgrade on Friday, will discuss bilateral ties with Serbia’s leaders, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman has announced.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
"Talks with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic will give them a chance to 'check their watches on the main aspects of bilateral and international agendas," Aleksandr Lukashevich said.
The Russian foreign minister and his Serbian hosts will also "assess the dynamics of realizing agreements reached earlier, and outline the further development of relations," Sputnik quoted Lukashevich as telling RIA Novosti.

The spokesman added that Lavrov's upcoming visit will allow him to "exchange opinions with Serbia's leadership on a broad range of bilateral issues, including in the light of the outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Serbia on October 16, 2014."

Lukashevich said that in 2014, trade turnover between Russia and Serbia saw a 7.6-percent increase compared to the 2013 figure, and that Russian exports to Serbia grew by almost 20 percent.

"In light of the restrictions on agricultural imports from the EU member states imposed by Russia as a response to the Western sanctions, the situation proved favorable to increase shipment of respective goods from Serbia," Lukashevich said.

According to the spokesman, Russia's total investments in Serbia, including the capital that arrived via third countries, reached USD 3.9 billion compared to 2014, while Serbian leaders "accepted with understanding" the decision to abandon the South Stream project.

"We are convinced that energy sector cooperation with Belgrade will continue successfully, when it comes to deliveries of Russian gas to Serbia via the existing routes, as well as in view of the initiative to open a large gas hub on the Turkey-Greece border to bring further supplies to South-Eastern Europe," Lukashevich said.

He added that Lavrov and Dacic - as the OSCE chairperson-in-office - will also have "intensive dialogue on issues from the jurisdiction of that organization."

"We welcome the aspiration of our Serbian colleagues to approach OSCE's issues in a measured and objective manner, respecting the positions of all member-states. We count on coordination of efforts with Serbia during the remainder of its chairmanship," the Russian MFA official said.

He added that OSCE's additional efforts were necessary to stabilize the situation in the Balkans, "above all in view of the current compilation of the situation in Macedonia."

According to Lukashevich, the cooperation between Moscow and Belgrade in international affairs is advancing, despite Brussels' anti-Russia policy.

"Belgrade does not see its aim for the European Union membership as an obstacle for further strengthening of its ties with Russia or coordinating with us its approach toward global and European issues. Serbia did not join the anti-Russia sanctions of the European Union and took a restrained stance regarding the situation in Ukraine," Lukashevich said.

He added added that the issues of peace and stability in Balkan region and especially the settlement in Kosovo will have a special place in the Russian-Serbian dialogue.

"Serbia can still fully count on Russia's support in the issues of protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity with regard to Kosovo," he stated.

The Russian MFA spokesman also noted that Russian and Serbian presidents met twice this year, first in Yerevan, and then in Moscow, and added:

"The participation in the (Victory Day) ceremonies of the Serbian leader, whose people showed heroism and self-sacrifice in the fight against the Nazi evil, confirmed the friendly character of relations between our countries. There is also symbolism in the marching of a Serbian Guard sub-echelon on Red Square during the May 9 parade."

Derelict military island in Albania to become tourist attraction

Nuclear bomb shelters on Sazan Island, a derelict military base off the coast of Albania, could be turned into wine cellars

Sazan Island, Albania
Sazan Island used to house more than 3,000 soldiers before falling into disrepairs Photo: AP

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A derelict military base off the coast of Albania, filled with bunkers and tunnels designed to withstand a nuclear attack, is to become the country's newest tourist attraction this summer.
Sazan Island is still technically an operational military base, with two sailors remaining on the two-square-mile isle to offer shelter to navies patrolling Albanian waters. But it is a far cry from the days when more than 3,000 troops were stationed there with enough food, ammunition and fuel to last six months.
The tunnels and bunkers that riddle it are testament to the former communist state’s fears of a Western invasion during the Cold War. The Italian army was stationed here in the Thirties, while in the Fifties the base was used to monitor the movement of Italian and American ships – a villa housing such equipment remains.

Barracks on Sazan Island have deteriorated considerably (Photo: AP)
But now it is being touted by Albania’s National Coastal Agency as a lure for tourists.
“What once was an isolated, unreached spot, a mystery to almost all Albanians but a few then-communist leaders, may now turn into an attractive place, especially for foreign tourists,” said Auron Tare, of the newly-formed state organisation.
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Tourism only accounts for 4.8 per cent of Albania’s GDP and the government is keen for this figure to grow. Tare is inviting “Western ambassadors” to visit Sazan this summer in the hope it will cultivate excitement about the area.

The island is off the coast of Albania in the Adriatic Sea (Photo: AP)
The island’s ruined buildings still contain old beds, kitchen utensils, school benches and chairs, while Italian floor tiles can still be seen in some places. The villa of communist defence minster Beqir Balluku, who was executed by dictator Enver Hoxka as a traitor in 1974, also remains.
11 unlikely desintations tipped for a boom
Much of the island’s dereliction has occurred over the last 25 years, since Albania became democratic. The now-empty ammunition and fuel depots were looted in 1997, when turmoil followed the collapse of pyramid investment schemes that bankrupted Europe's poorest population. More recently a cinema and former command building were destroyed during joint military exercises with British troops.

The island requires some work before opening to tourists this summer (Photo: AP)
The island needs power and drinking water before it is hospitable for tourists but Tare has plans for its future, including repurposing Sazan’s anti-nuclear tunnels as wine cellars. He said an international school or research centre for underwater or coastal heritage is also possible. A proposal from Las Vegas investors for a casino on the island has been rejected.

"Greater Albania is key security risk"

BELGRADE -- The chairman of the Committee on Security Services Control believes that the key security risk faced by Serbia is "realization of the Greater Albania project."
Momir Stojanovic (R) (Beta, file)
Momir Stojanovic (R) (Beta, file)
Speaking for the Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti, Momir Stojanovic said that "a wave of terrorism" is not being ruled out, and that it would be "launched in Macedonia, spill over to our country - even though Serbia's institutions have operatively and intelligence-wise taken all preventive measures."
According to Stojanovic, the region around Presevo in southern Serbia is "potentially the biggest risk area," and described it as "an important strategic point."

"Through it passes the key road and rail communication, while the Turkish Stream pipeline is also planned. It is possible that those great powers who mind that project have struck at the weakest link - Macedonia. Serbia must be careful not to, while fighting for the north of Kosovo and Metohija, lose the south of the central Serbia," this MP from the ruling SNS party told the newspaper.

Asked "who really controls the terrorists," Stojanovic responded by saying it was "no secret that the United States, in terms of creating its Western Balkans policy, relies on the Albanian corps."

"America has no problem with realization of a Greater Albania because it is not a threat to their security and their interests. On the other hand, the EU is afraid of it because the project is a source of instability in this part of the world," he said.

"Greater Albania" refers to an expansionist project that would extend the borders of Albania to include parts of Serbia, Greece, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

According to Stojadinovic, "all Albanian political leaders in the region are essentially 'one brain'."

"The division between them is such that one group sends conciliatory messages while the other sends radical and extreme ones. And at the push of a button they are ready to signal terrorists to take action when needed. And that - when they get the nod from the outside," Stojanovic, a former general, concluded.