SKOPJE, 13 July 1997 - The following statement was released today by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel.
"On 10-13 July 1997, I held meetings with, inter alia, Prime Minister Mr. Branko Crvenkovski, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Blagoj Handziski Under-Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior Mr. Dime Gjurev, the President of the PDP Mr. Abdurrahman Aliti, the President of the PDP-A Mr. Arben Xhaferi and the Mayor of Tetovo Mr. Alajdin Demeri. The authorities also enabled me to meet with the Mayor of Gostivar, Mr. Rufi Osmani, who is presently in detention.
"The main subject of these conversations, in which the Head of the OSCE Mission Ambassador Christian Faber-Rod also took part was the recent incidents in Tetovo and Gostivar which, to my deep regret, led in Gostivar to the death of 2 persons and to the serious injury of 25 others. I welcome the intention of the Government to present a full report to Parliament on these events.
'With regard to the question of the flying of the Albanian flag at the town halls of Tetovo and Gostivar, I have noted that the Mayors of both towns have persistently refused to implement the order of the Constitutional Court to remove the flags. Nor did they give any indication that they would change their attitude after adoption by Parliament of the new law on the use of the flags of nationalities, which, as applied in Tetovo and Gostivar, restricts the use of the Albanian flag at the town halls to official State holidays.
"In the coming period, it is in my view more important than ever before that all nationalities within the State strive to find solutions for inter-ethnic problems by rejecting ethnic hatred and intolerance and by seeking constructive and continuous dialogue, with equal rights for all ethnic groups as the guiding principle. In order to be successful, such a dialogue must be based on internationally accepted norms and standards, but it must equally be based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State as well as the Constitutional order and the Rule of Law."