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Cablegate: Macedonia:Dui Leader Ahmeti On Issues Straining

VZCZCXRO6235
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSQ #0052/01 0351452
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041452Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY SKOPJE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8862
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE 0593
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SKOPJE 000052

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MK
SUBJECT: MACEDONIA:DUI LEADER AHMETI ON ISSUES STRAINING
THE COALITION AND NAME ISSUE RESOLUTION

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PHILIP REEKER FOR REASONS 1.5 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Lack of progress on the &name issue8 and
ongoing divisive interethnic relations are straining the
coalition, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti told the Ambassador in
meetings on January 19 and 20. Ahmeti said Gruevski,s
relentless emphasis on the Macedonian identity was hurting
DUI, as ethnic-Albanians are increasingly disenchanted with
DUI,s continued presence in coalition with Gruevski. While
Ahmeti is clearly frustrated, he has no plans to leave the
government. Ahmeti reports that his first meeting with
President Ivanov was generally positive and pragmatic. (End
Summary)

----------------------------------------
DUI FRUSTRATED AND WEAKEND BY NAME ISSUE
----------------------------------------

2. (C) Ambassador met with DUI leader Ali Ahmeti and his
chief lieutenant, Deputy Prime Minister Abdulaqim Ademi, on
January 19 (in Tetovo) and 20 (at the CMR). Ahmeti stated
that while the resolution of the name issue remains
critically important to the e-Albanian community, he was in a
difficult position. Ahmeti noted that Gruevski had bombarded
the ethnic-Macedonians with propaganda regarding identity and
culture and as a result was maintaining strong public
approval (recent IRI polling shows strong but slipping
support for the PM and his party). Conversely, DUI,s
support level had taken a severe hit (down four percentage
points from twelve to eight percent in last six months),
which Ahmeti claims is due to his inability to put more
pressure on the PM to solve the name issue. Ambassador
Reeker explained to Ahmeti that there was an increasing
concern in the international community that Macedonia was not
genuinely committed to resolving the name issue and both
Macedonia and Greece needed to take tangible steps forward
over the next six months. Ahmeti agreed that this period is
critical and insisted that he was putting pressure on
Gruevski. However, he seemed uncertain how DUI could change
its strategy on the name issue and declined to set a date at
which point his party would pull out of the coalition if no
progress was made. Ahmeti said leaving the coalition would
only hurt the country and wanted to avoid such a step.

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3. (C) Ahmeti told the Ambassador that in Ahmeti's January 20
meeting with Gruevski, the Prime Minister spent much of their
session lamenting the amount of pressure Ahmeti was putting
on him to resolve the name issue. In turn, Ahmeti told
Gruevski that the opinion polls wanted him to apply even more
pressure. Ahmeti asked the Ambassador for several
clarifications on various aspects of the name issue that
Gruevski had conveyed to them. Gruevski reportedly told
Ahmeti that Greece was insisting that identity and language
be included in the negotiations, that changing the country,s
name in the passport would require changing the constitution,
and activity in the negotiations process could only logically
resume following the Greek presidential elections. The
Ambassador said that we did not believe these assertions to
be accurate.

4. (C) Ahmeti noted that he was concerned that opposition
party leader Crvenkovski,s political tactics were only
hindering Gruevski,s ability to resolve the name issue. He
felt Crvenkovski had created a no-win political scenario for
Gruevski, in which if Gruevski did not solve the name issue
he would be jeopardizing the future of the country and if he
did solve it he would be selling out Macedonia,s identity.
Ahmeti claimed the rift between Crvenkovski,s SDSM and
Gruevski,s VMRO was much deeper than those among the
e-Albanian parties. Ahmeti believed that if the e-Albanian
parties were presented with an opportunity to unite to
resolve the name issue they could temporarily overcome their
differences, but such unity was impossible for SDSM and VMRO.
Because of that, Ahmeti did not believe a "Government of
Unity" was a likely option for dealing with the "name" issue.

--------------------------------------------- -----
ETHNICALLY DIVISIVE ISSUES STRAINING THE COALITION
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (C) Ahmeti cited several ethnically divisive issues he
felt were straining coalition ties and making it more
difficult for the country to focus on the name issue. He
said that the most divisive currently is the proposed laws on
changing primary and secondary school registrars in
e-Albanian communities from the Albanian language to the
Macedonian language and the GoM,s push to make Macedonian
language classes obligatory at the first grade level
(currently Macedonian becomes obligatory at fourth grade in
minority communities). He said these laws provoked
particularly strong reactions from the e-Albanian public
because they evoked memories of Macedonia,s Yugoslav past
and incited inflammatory rhetoric from both sides (e.g.-
&This is not Albania! Go to Albania if you want to learn
Albanian!8). He also called the planned construction of an
Orthodox church in Skopje,s central square (along with the
ceaseless construction of churches and mosques throughout
Macedonia) &sinful8 given the condition of the rest of the
country. He noted, however, that he could not publicly
condemn the church or he would be branded an intolerant
Muslim. Ahmeti said the continued processing of the 2001
cases returned to Macedonia from the ICTY and the GoM,s
refusal to address the irregularities presented by a special
parliamentary group surrounding the convictions of 12
e-Albanians in the Sopot case were also putting a strain on
coalition relations. Ahmeti wants to see the returned cases
resolved and does not want them to be a frozen issue that
VMRO reopens every time they need to put pressure on him.
Ahmeti said that VMRO tried to negotiate a compromise in
which parliament would accept the findings on the Sopot case
if DUI stopped blocking the proposed laws on education.
Ahmeti said finding justice was too important and he would
not make a deal.

6. (C) Ahmeti said he laid out all of these issues for
Gruevski at their January 20 meeting and that Gruevski agreed
that the coalition was not functioning well. Ahmeti said
Gruevski seemed displeased with DUI,s lack of support for
the laws on education and was also unhappy with statements
cming from DUI MPs on other issues. Ahmeti told Gruevski
that the media was manipulating these statements and they
both needed to do a better job controlling their party
people. Ultimately, Ahmeti and Gruevski decided that DPM
Ademi and PM CoS Martin Protoger would sit down and work out
an agreement on all the issues laid out in the meeting. That
meeting took place on January 25, and while they did not come
to terms on resolving any of the aforementioned issues, both
agreed that communication between DUI and VMRO needed to
improve. To broaden inter-party communication and cooperation
they decided to organize a couple of meetings that will
include five or six of each party's senior leaders to discuss
possible solutions.

7. (C) Ahmeti pleaded with the Ambassador for U.S. assistance
in resolving these issues. Ambassador explained that issues
such as the use of language in schools should not be a
central concern for the international community; Macedonia
needed to demonstrate its maturity as a nation and resolve
those issues through constructive, rational dialogue.
Ambassador agreed that the GoM,s plans to construct the new
Orthodox church in Skopje were disturbing given the
country,s more pressing needs, and that such resource
allocation priorities ultimately damaged the GoM,s
credibility when seeking international assistance for
development projects. The Ambassador said he would continue
to convey this point to the PM and encouraged Ahmeti to do so
as well.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
FIRST PRIVATE MEETING BETWEEN AHMETI AND PRESIDENT IVANOV
--------------------------------------------- -------------

8. (C) Ahmeti reported that his first private meeting with
President Ivanov on December 30 went well even if it was long
overdue. The discussion focused on adding two e-Albanian
members to Ivanov,s staff and the name issue. Ivanov agreed
with Ahmeti that negotiations with Greece to resolve the name
issue must remain a top priority. Later on the evening of
January 20, Ahmeti and his wife joined the Ambassador for a
philharmonic concert (unprecedented for Ahmeti). President
and Mrs. Ivanov were also the Ambassador's guests and it was
the first time the two leaders' spouses met.
REEKER

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