Then, in an extraordinary televised address, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, ordinarily the chief defender of Macedonian Slav interests, suddenly announced that his government was on the verge of granting ethnic Albanians virtually everything they asked for, including formal recognition in the constitution. "We have an obligation toward the international community to create a Macedonia that will suit Albanians," he said.
But that overture too was spurnedfirst by leading Macedonian Slav members of the government, who accused the Prime Minister of selling out, and then by an ethnic Albanian politician who charged that Georgievski was just trying to provoke extremists. "We cannot accept the way Georgievski talks about this," said Azis Polozhani of the Party of Democratic Prosperity. "That is inflammatory talk that could push the country deeper into crisis."
Short of war, there is not much deeper it can go. Despite continuing diplomatic efforts by Solana and others, Macedonia's political parties seem no closer to settling their differences. The longer the fighting lasts, the less the chance of compromise.
Proof of how bad things have become was supplied by a proposal from the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts that Macedonia and Albania swap villages, an implausible scheme that would redraw the borders and could trigger a new round of ethnic cleansing. That idea too was dismissed, thankfully. Macedonian government forces, meanwhile, continued a two-week-old offensive along the Kosovo border that has killed several civilians and forced thousands to flee. The government accuses rebels of keeping 10,000 civilians coralled as human shields. "We can hardly wait to get orders to move on and finish the job," said Col. Blagoja Markovski, an army spokesman, insisting that despite reports to the contrary morale is high.
One promising solution, proposed by President Boris Trajkovski, is based on an effort that seemed to work last month in neighboring Serbia. The President offered an amnesty to all rebels who laid down their arms, except top commanders, those who organized the rebellion and those who could be proved to have committed war crimes. Ethnic Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi called the proposal "interesting" but said "we should discuss it with those who are waging the war." Unfortunately for Macedonia, the same men who started the war must now be relied on to end it.