Macedonian minister concerned about ethnic Albanian fund-raising

Mitreva (left) asked Deiss to take action (picture: Imogen Foulkes)

The Macedonian foreign minister, Ilinka Mitreva, has expressed concern about fund-raising by ethnic Albanians in Switzerland who are believed to be sending money or weapons to rebels in Macedonia. Mitreva raised the issues during talks in Bern with her Swiss counterpart, Joseph Deiss.

This content was published on August 29, 2001 minutes

Mitreva used the occasion to call on the Swiss government to do all it could to act against individuals living in Switzerland who she said were financing "Albanian terrorists" in Macedonia.

"We have information that financial and logistical support is coming from some Albanian lobby groups located in Switzerland," Mitreva said at a press conference following her meeting with Deiss.

"These lobby groups are making an important contribution to the terrorist activities in Macedonia," she added.

Mitreva asked Deiss to ensure that the Swiss authorities block the illegal trafficking of drugs and weapons between Switzerland and Macedonia.

Responding to the request, Deiss reaffirmed the government's commitment to prevent Albanian activists from operating on Swiss territory, but issued a warning that it was difficult to control financial contributions to rebels which originated in Switzerland.

"It's not illegal to send money to your relatives," Deiss commented.

Trafficking in arms

"For many years, people from south-eastern Europe have been sending part of their income back to their families. It's forbidden, of course, to sell or engage in the trafficking of arms in this region and it's much more easy to control this than the sending of money."

In June the government imposed a "restriction order" on a leading Albanian activist living in Switzerland, Fazli Veliu, who is the official representative of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Veliu was threatened with expulsion if he was discovered to be fundraising, representing or supporting organisations involved in the violence in Macedonia.

At the beginning of July, the government also announced it would no longer allow leaders of the National Liberation Army to enter the country.

The foreign ministry said at the time it would also clamp down on the illegal practice of raising funds in Switzerland to finance for rebel operations inside Macedonia.

Mitreva's visit to Switzerland is part of an extended tour of European countries, during which she has appealed for financial assistance for Macedonia.

Skopje has mooted the idea of an international donors conference for Macedonia, which could be organised along the lines of the one held recently for the former Yugoslavia in Brussels at the end of June.

Deiss, however, made it clear that Switzerland was reluctant to commit to the idea of a donors conference, confirming only that his government would maintain its current SFr10 million aid pledge to Macedonia.

swissinfo with agencies

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